Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"The Book the NBA Doesn't Want You to Read"

As Ben mentioned in a previous article, the NBA is becoming a little ridiculous. In the summer of 2007, allegations came out about a referee, Tim Donaghy, betting on games. It was shown that Donaghy had placed thousands of dollars on games and eventually became involved in a low-level mob gambling ring. He was eventually sentenced to 30 months in jail and proceeded to write a book. (I feel like I'm the only one not writing a book these days! I guess that's why I have a blog). Well, this book, titled Blowing the Whistle by Tim Donaghy, has been released and there is a great set of excerpts available at Deadspin.com. I will leave the reading up to you guys, but I have a few things on my mind about the National Basketball Association related to the exceprts, or as my favorite writer Bill Simmons calls it, the "No Balls Association."

The first problem I have is with star treatment and how it affects the way the game is played. Something I'm glad Donaghy mentioned in his section on star treatment was the specific "relationship" between Kobe Bryant and Raja Bell. Donaghy says Bell was penalized by the league and referees for being too good! Too good! Are you kidding me? Raja Bell has the ability to shut down Kobe Bryant, who he met often and "shut down" in the Western Conference playoffs. Shut down is a relative term because there's really no shutting down the Black Mamba. But see, Kobe had some help. The league doesn't like to see Raja Bell shut down a superstar who can score 40 a game, it's "not good for business." People don't pay to watch a defensive stud like Bell, they pay to watch Kobe and Tim Duncan and most superstars for that matter, get calls and put up inflated numbers. More times than not, those who pay to watch Kobe wouldn't know a good basketball player if Bill Russell punched them in the face with a fist full of rings. For those who remember watching Jordan, there was nothing I'd rather pay for than to see him get mauled by Detroit's Bad Boys or the 90's Knicks and still put up 30. It may not be 40 or 50, but it's a magical performance seeing him earn his points. The problem with today's NBA is that these refs are directed by David Stern to make sure the game is a good show his paycheck suppliers. Sure it's fun to watch today's stars put up insane numbers, but it's not good basketball. The hand-check era is over and there is nothing to help a defender against a scorer other than pure talent; and even when that comes along, the refs are there to make sure the offense has the advantage.

Donaghy also writes about other referees he worked with and all of their evils. For example, Dick Bavetta loved the spot light more than he loved refereeing. See any problems? For one, when the referee thinks the game is less important than his face-time, he starts controlling the game instead of making sure the game stays under control. Bavetta even speaks of specific games he was assigned to work to make sure one team had a favorable advantage. Another ref, Tommy Nunez, loved the Hispanic community in San Antonio so decided that they would win a 2007 playoff series against the Suns so he could go back to San Antonio to ref. Yup! That's fair! There are also a couple accounts of player-referee feuds (and friendships) that affected games.

It's very disturbing that many of these refs have been in the league for a decade or so, and that David Stern has been the commish for even longer. This only says one thing. Sure "the NBA cares" but about dollar signs, not basketball. The reason NCAA basketball is so much fun to watch, is because those guys go out there and play hard. Not always does the most talented team win, but the team that plays good basketball and works harder normally wins. The quality of basketball has undoubtedly declined over the past few years, and something needs to change.

Don't get me wrong, there are some SERIOUS basketball players in the NBA. Chris Paul's court sense is awesome to watch. Watching Kobe slice and dice a defense (and not get a call) is spectacular. The physical dominance of LeBron. The run and gun Phoenix Suns. And Shane Battier and Raja Bell's defense that makes real basketball fans smile no matter your loyalties. I guess I'm saying that once the players are allowed to play basketball, and it's talent vs. talent, we'll re-run the glory days of Bird, McHale, Magic and MJ.

With a fade away J,

Mike Donchez


Ben Boskovich said...

I love Kobe Bryant and as soon as Jordan retired he became my favorite active player....but you have a point...ex: One Interesting fact from tonight's game:

Free Throws attempted

Oklahoma City Thunder (Starters)---> 13/15
Kobe Bryant (Player)------------>12/14

Kobe shot only one FT less than OKC's entire starting lineup

Anonymous said...

Allen Iverson is/was the greatest all around player in the last 30yrs of the NBA outside of Jordan.

Andrew said...

Not sure who anonymously posted the first comment, but I would have to respectfully disagree. Iverson may have been a good player, but his net affect on the NBA as a whole is a definite negative.

The generation of players that came into the Association at the tail end of the Jordan era were a product of having watched MJ and the "me first" I need to score 60 every night to be a superstar style of play. Unfortunately for the NBA, none of the players who entered the league in the "corn row" era of the late 90's-early 2000's had even an inkling of Jordan's talent and ability.

Iverson being the most successful of the "ima supastar" generation was merely the king of a generation of losers in the NBA. Iverson's biggest impact on the NBA was furthing the idea that you needed to lead the league in scoring to be a superstar.

Shooting Percentage? Who cares...I got my 30.

Assists? Distributing the ball from the point position? Who cares...I got my 30.

Iverson shot 40% for his career and will presumably only get worse when he continues to begrudgingly come off the bench in Memphis this season.

Unfortunately for him, Iverson's legacy is not his own. No his biggest impact on this wonderful game of basketball will not be of his 13 for 50 shooting nights when the sixers eeked out a win in the marginally talented eastern conference.

Iverson's legacy will be for furthering the myth that a marginally talented player can be a superstar in the NBA by simply shooting more than everyone else. As much fun as he may have been to watch, he will best be remembered for the generation of players who followed his lead and drove the NBA to be a perimeter oriented game of guards who shot too much with undeveloped skill sets and no court sense; as well as their accompanying power forwards will no redeemable skills other than than the fact that their freakish athleticism allows then to catch an oop from the foul line. (Yes I'm talking to you Darius Rucker).

No my friends, Mr. Iverson will not be remember for shooting his way to a single win in the NBA finals against the Lakers. He will be (rightfully so) for creating players such as (everyone's favorite), Stephan Marbury, Omar Cook, Steve "Franchise" Francis, Bonzie Wells, Ricky Davis, anyone who played for the Clippers, Golden State Warriors, or Portland Trail Blazers, etc, etc, etc.

For all the points he scored while he was a #1 in the NBA, Iverson unintentionally set the league back a decade. Just ask Chauncey Billups.

(Sorry if this is a rambling mess. I didn't take time to actually read what I just wrote.)

Andrew said...

Just to clarify...what I meant by, "Ask Chauncey Billups."

Billups came into the league in 97-98 season, one year after Iverson, and then played for 4 teams in 6 years before he got to the Pistons.

For the first 6 years of his career he quietly averaged 12pts, 6assists, and 2 steals per game. How does a future Finals MVP get traded by 4 teams before he finds a home you ask? Well the same skill set that includes sturdy D, amazing offensive efficiency, excellent decision making, and the intangibles that make a great leader and largely go unnoticed because they don't get recorded in the stat column; that made him a finals MVP, largely went unnoticed b/c of players like Iverson.

It took the NBA a long time to work it's way out of the dark age that was spawned by Iverson and his league of untalented minions. But thankfully for the basketball faithful, players like Billups, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Andre Miller, Chris Paul, and Jason Kid have shown us the light and given us a glimpse of the style of play created and perfected by the like of Bob Cousy, Pete Maravich, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, John Stockton, etc, etc, etc.