Saturday, November 3rd, 2001
Many people are skeptical about the NBA lifting its prohibition on zone
defenses. The adversaries of the zone contend it will change the NBA. Good.
The NBA is boring. Last year, it wasn't a matter of who would win, but if
the Lakers could go undefeated throughout the playoffs. And as long as Shaq
and Kobe are there, you could fill the rest of the squad with the original
cast members of the Washington Generals and they would still win.
I never fully understood the rationale behind banning the zone, except that
it makes college basketball that much more interesting. It's the equivalent
of telling a Defensive Coordinator that he can only rush a certain amount
of lineman at the quarterback, and his cornerbacks have to play man-to-man.
Or dictating to a manager that a Ted Williams shift is forbidden when a player
of Barry Bonds' caliber steps to the plate. Obviously, the scoring increases,
but the game is cheapened.
What the NBA fails to understand is it's not up to them to increase scoring
by tinkering with the rules. If anything, they should make it harder to score.
That way, points would actually have some value. But everyone is obsessed
with this 100-point plateau, as if that is the standard for a good game.
My standard is if it entertains me throughout, it doesn't matter if the end
result is 72-70.
The problem is the NBA hasn't been entertaining in years. The reason is simple
- everybody runs the exact same offense and defense! Sure, they dress it
up under different names: Triple Post, Motion Offense, Flex, etc. But it
basically comes down to a big man getting double teamed and swinging the
ball around until the open man is found. I don't know why they even have
So when everybody has the same offense and defense, the end result is whoever
has the best players wins. Except that in the NBA, where you have to guard
man-to-man, it comes down to who has the best two players, not the best team.
And we've seen who has the two best players. I'm not trying to diminish the
skills of Phil Jackson, either. He gets the best players to play their best.
But if he was still with the Bulls running the triple post with Fizer and
Crawford, they'd want his head on a stake.
So I am excited for the retro zone look. I realize though that the NBA will
continue to reshape the game, so I've taken the liberty of putting together
a couple suggestions for further rules changes.
1. Make the Court Wider
When Dr. James Naismith invented this game with his peach basket, he probably
didn't envision the smallest person on the court standing at 6'3". Now, it
takes about three dribbles to get past half court, and it amazes me when
someone shoots a three pointer at the baseline without stepping out of bounds.
The congestion in the frontcourt slows down any semblance of an internal
passing game, which could be alleviated with more room for the enormous players
to maneuver. Then you could make the lanes wider and pretty soon, there might
be enough room for more than three players around the rim.
2. Too Many Timeouts
These are professional athletes. They have one job - play basketball. They
don't have to weld, garden, deliver mail - they only have to play basketball.
So why is it then, in the last minute of every game, they have to call a
timeout after every possession? Why does the NBA give every team like nine
timeouts and a twenty? What's with that twenty? If the coach can get his
point across in twenty seconds, what are they talking about for two minutes
every other time? Make every timeout twenty seconds. It'll preserve the flow
of the game and will force me to stop changing the channel to one of the
twelve Law & Order's that are running in syndication during every
I was amazed at how long it took to end a Bulls game when Michael was around.
The Bulls would call timeout, tell everyone to go away, and let Michael win
it. Then the Jazz call a timeout, to see who the Bulls put on the floor.
Amazingly enough, Jordan was out there. Then the Jazz would use the delay
of game trick to see the play develop (shh ... it's going to Michael). All
this, and I've seen Lenny Briscoe throw three suspects up against a chain
link fence. I flip back to the game and I can't remember what's going on!
3. Shorter Regular Season
Eighty-two games is too long. How about forty? Or twelve? Twelve is good.
Theres no point to the regular season, except for fantasy owners. You
can write in fourteen of the sixteen teams, and the Nets and Clippers are
never among them. Just put em in a hat, draw for match-ups, roll the
dice for home court, and the Lakers will still win it all. All teams try
to do now is stay healthy during the season, so when the playoffs roll around,
theyre ready to step it up a notch. Except the Heat, who wilt every
postseason because they play so hard during the marathon season.
4. Minimum Age of 21 to Play in the NBA
Quality of play is down in the NBA for a number of reasons, one of which
is teenagers jumping to the pros without the fundamentals. When a team sees
an 18-year-old with all the potential in the world, they can't afford to
pass on him if he turns out to be the next Garnett. So they sign him to a
big deal, and play him before he's ready. It's not a right to play in the
NBA. It's a right to vote, breathe, and surf the web for Internet porn. You
have to be 21 to gamble, so why not be 21 to gamble with your life. For every
Kobe, there are ten Leon Smiths.
4. Stop Insisting the Lottery Isn't Fixed
Why they insist on calling it a lottery is beyond me. The Knicks get Ewing.
The Spurs get Duncan. The Magic get Shaq and the #1 the very next year. And
now Jordan gets the #1. They're not even trying to cover it up anymore. As
reassuring it is to know the ball juggling process - integrity is kept in
tact by Deputy Puppet Master Russ Granik and an independent witness, we would
rather just have them level with us.
5. Disband the Cleveland Cavaliers
When the Nets or Clippers show up, you can at least point to Jason Kidd or
Elton Brand to sustain your evening's entertainment. What about the Cavs?
Can you name one? What about their coach? Doesn't matter really - he was
hired for one reason - to be fired. This is a team that has been going nowhere
ever since they traded Ron Harper for Danny Ferry. No one ever says, "Did
you see the Cavs play last night?" It's never the up-and-coming Cavaliers.
They're always depressing. Their greatest claim to fame was giving us the
memory of the shot. Other than that, there's no reason to hold onto this
mistake by the lake.
6. Sprewell for Public Relations Director
I know this isn't the forum because it's not a rule change. He did sue the
NBA after they fired him for choking his coach, threatened his teammate with
a two by four, and didn't seem overly concerned when his pit bull bit off
part of his daughter's face. But when asked about the Knicks chances this
year, he's candid.
He wonders aloud why they have three six-foot, slow point guards to go along
with two shooting guard playing small forward. And instead of making a push
to sign Webber, they spent their money on another small forward and an undersized
You may not want him at your dinner table, but he's the only Knick being
honest about their chances this year. The NBA could use a little honesty
instead of insisting everything is great all the time.
With these changes, the NBA's progression can continue to move forward. And
in the immortal words of Barry Bonds "Go Baseball."