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Bad Basketball: NBA’s Dog Days

February 3rd, 2018 · 1 Comment · Basketball, NBA

Goodness, the NBA is awful right now.

Lots of bad teams. Scads of nearly unwatchable games. Good teams unable to produce a genuine effort.

Apparently, it is so difficult to win consecutive games on the road, or back-to-backs anywhere, that we should go back and worship the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors — who somehow went 73-9, setting the NBA record for victories.

This season’s Warriors, who retain the stars of the record-setting team and are in Season 2 of being augmented by the addition of Kevin Durant, have lost two of three, including the second half of a back-to-back in Denver tonight.

And that’s the NBA’s best team.

NBA fans like to talk about how the game is growing, passing boring old baseball, with the NFL in their sights … but anyone who has paid attention since the turn of the year knows the NBA is ragged and disjointed and too often disinterested, at the moment. And


–The NBA season began a week earlier than in previous years, to give the players more time to recover and avoid the four-games-in-five-days situations that were, yes, crazy. But somehow the players got through it, in previous years. This season, the schedule breaks do not seem to be enough and, in fact, players seem to be more fatigued than usual. (Every team pushing the pace? Creating frenetic sprinting matches up and down the court?)

–Steve Kerr, coach of the Warriors, conceded his team was “fried” after a victory at Sacramento this week. Despite boasting four all-stars, the Warriors did not shake the feeble Kings till the final minutes — in part because the Warriors made 25 turnovers. The champions were sloppy and careless.

–The notion that NBA teams should 1) be contenders for the championship or 2) otherwise be in the process of blowing up their teams and hoarding draft picks and promising young players … has the league in its grip. What it creates is a minority trying to win now and, increasingly a significant majority playing for some notional future.

–The league seems to have thought that 16 playoffs slots would produce maybe 18-20 teams trying to win Right This Minute and keep the competition still. That is, the 16 slots for the postseason and another two-three-four who fall a win or two short.

Instead, teams seem to have decided that being in the lower half of the playoffs bracket is worse than a spot in the draft lottery.

–The league has perhaps four teams that appear capable of winning a championship: Golden State, Houston, Boston and Toronto. We might include Cleveland, but only if we have not been watching the Cavaliers’ implosion. LeBron James’s team remains interesting, but not because it is good.

–Any given regular-season pairing of not-one-of-those-five teams can give you horrific games like Phoenix versus Dallas, from two games ago, in which one star (Phoenix’s Devin Booker) and one former star (Dirk Nowitzki) are playing. Just about Sacramento or Atlanta or Orlando or Lakers or Charlotte or Memphis (et al) game is almost certainly not worth your time.

–The league is being hurt by the clustering of superstars on a handful of teams. Top players have come to believe only chumps try to win without lots of elite help. Thus, LeBron to Miami (then Cleveland, maybe Houston next?), Durant to Golden State, Chris Paul to Houston, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Paul George to Oklahoma …

–And speaking of stars, two of the best dozen players are out indefinitely — DeMarcus Cousins with a snapped Achilles and Kawhi Leonard with a mysterious leg injury. This is a league where stars are the attraction and half the teams in the league (at a minimum) do not have even one star.

It is making, at the moment, for a dull league with too many no-hope teams jettisoning older, expensive players so as to angle for a top pick, constant speculation about where stars might assemble next, which destabilizes teams that have a superstar — at the moment. (See: LeBron.) Factor in teams fatigued by frenetic styles and an 82-game schedule … and the product is shaky. Very.

It is a league with issues. We can only hope that the whole week off, pertaining to the All-Star Game, will reinvigorate the players and create hotly contested, high-quality games — maybe even some that do not include one of the obvious contenders.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ben Bolch // Feb 4, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    I’ve been saying this for years: Shorten the preseason to two games and the regular season to 60 games. Anything else is hurting the product and causing players’ bodies to break down.

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