What about… Other NBA teams…

What about other NBA teams…? The Lakers are still the most consistent model of success for an NBA team, a model the Oklahoma City Thunder have done a better job of creating recently, which they developed by studying the success of The Lakers! That model is: height & length, speed & accuracy. Will The Miami Heat really become a model for success? WIll other teams be forced to copy them to compete at the highest level? Are you kidding me! They have 2 SGs plus a PF trying to play Center, adding a supporting cast of misfits to round out a squad that is only winning because of the individual greatness of Lebron James – he can be isolated, restrained… But OKC plays a wide open, shoot from the perimeter game led by Kevin Durant and a PG (Russell Westbrook) who is more unpredictable than he is reliable. Coaching doesn’t seem to be able to overcome this “live by sword, die by the sword” approach to success in the NBA. I am expecting to hear: “Maybe next year,” as if a team was unlucky instead of the loser to a better team. What arrogance! What stupidity. Work hard, work smart: enjoy the fruits of your labor. Give the glory to God, instead of gloat in selfish ambition or… sorry, I digressed. Back off the tangent…

If you really think basketball was meant to be played by a superstar with a supporting cast then you do not know the history behind the development of the sport! The game is meant to be understood as an attack of the rim by an offensive player able to put up the highest percentage shot available within a certain timeframe: 24 seconds. It is played in 48 minutes, or 4 quarters of 12 minutes each, clumped into 2 halfs. The defense has to play by certain rules that make it difficult to stop the opposition without fouling them and sending them to the Free Throw Line to make a very easy shot: therefore, the name, “free.” It’s meant to be played as a “team,” sharing the ball with teammates, getting the ball to the player with the best available, high-percentage shot; it was not meant to encourage arrogance, but to highlight humility and teamwork, working together to accomplish a common goal.

As a player, and then as a coach, it was easy to stop another team with only one good player: a defense called a “Box & 1” would be utilized, leaving a defender on the star player and a zone created against the rest of the opposing team. If there were two good players, then a “Triangle & 2” defense would be of value. It’s when a team has three or four legitimate threats that defense becomes difficult to play, in order to stop them from scoring at will – that’s when you might use a fastbreak offense to tire them out, or choose to foul them with bench players to force them to hit free throws (hoping you could score a 2-point field goal and only give up 1-point free throws)… The NBA used to have illegal defense rules that they have abandoned in recent years since kids exiting college early, or jumping to the pros straight out of high school, did not enter the NBA with a skill set to play man-to-man defense adequately well. The price of stardom, I suppose.

The 3-point shot was added to the NBA game about 30-years ago in order to drive up scores to increase fan appeal – yes, it was a gimmick they tested that has stuck around, but average scores have decreased – ironically! Why? It’s a very low-percentage shot! Why bring it up? To answer the original question: The best shot is the one taken closest to the rim! Therefore, the game is best played, in a fundamentally-sound way, by teams electing to pass the ball inside and then get the ball kicked back out to a mid-range shot if the inside shot is well-defended. An outside shot is to be taken only due to tough defensive pressure and the 24 second clock ticking down to zero.

Yes, I believe The Lakers to be one of very few teams that still plays a fundamentally sound, disciplined brand of NBA basketball! The rest of the teams that do so you can count on one hand: Phoenix, Boston, San Antonio, Memphis – and, maybe, Houston? The reason: good coaching! The Lakers have been very fortunate to have some of the best, ever! The greater abundance of teams are assembled by owners happy to make a profit without ever entertaining a single thought towards investing in a winning team they could be proud of! Coaches let their one “star” player dictate what the rest of the squad will do, yet “elite” teams can easily beat these 2nd tier teams with a slight effort on defense! Game over!

Kobe Bryant isn’t even remotely close to being in the Top 10 of the league’s biggest ball hogs! But he has that undeserved reputation, just like people say that The San Antonio Spurs are boring: Are you kidding me! Tony Parker & Manu Ginobli are far from boring. Tim Duncan might be stoic, and the same could be said for their head coach (whom I don’t like, so he will remain nameless) but they are surprisingly youthful! The Spurs are the 3rd youngest squad in the NBA! Okay, so I can’t get NBA basketball out of my mind: I’m sorry. One last point… Kobe Bryant is humble. You heard me: Kobe Bryant was humble enough to let Kevin Durant win the scoring title this year, even though he could have played the last game of the season vs. Sacramento and re-acquired the #1 status he had enjoyed all season long until the last week!

Arrogance abounds in the NBA! Lebron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh come to mind. Shaquille O’Neal… Vince Carter, World B. Free, Karl Malone, even Andrew Bynum – as he seems to be demanding respect he has not yet earned, a respect he thinks somehow allows him personal favoritism from referees, a hands-off attitude by opposing teams that throttle him defensively when he thinks it’s his turn to shine as a star! If you got it, you got it: if you don’t, you don’t (He’s got a bit of work to do to be considered an elite player, even by his peers; but, his immaturity seems to have blinded him into believing “headlines” when writers say good things about his inconsistent play on the court). What is arrogance, anyway? You should have a great deal of confidence in your abilities, if you expect to perform at a high level: Isn’t arrogance just a matter of believing something about yourself as true when it’s actually false?

Basketball can be a very simple game! The best teams don’t complicate it; the non-elite teams tend to disregard the basics of how to play the game, leaving the fans to watch a scrimmage, “street ball” exhibition of “my guy” is better than “your guy” as indivdual stars do whatever they want without much coaching or guidance, and an indifference toward playing a balanced “team” attack towards the ultimate goal of winning! The frustration fouls that then occur are understandable, if you know why such occur: if you have watched the game as long as I have, it’s not that hard to figure out why emotions on the court spill over into poor attitudes. Sometimes the officiating is soft, sometimes it’s too hard – sometimes the score becomes so lopsided it’s just not fun to play anymore, or lesser bench players with poor skills end up on the court without the necessary skills to stand a chance vs. starters of another team and get pushed around, etc.

The Lakers have always played a more finesse version of the game, as it was meant to be played. Today’s NBA involves a lot more msucle and strength, pushing & shoving, flops & the like… Apparently the NBA is now putting rules into effect for flops that will be enforced next year. The “Bad Boys” of Detroit’s Pistons many years ago was a more physical team; The Lakers of old had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shooting an undefendable skyhook… The Lakers today are clearly not The Showtime Lakers of the days when Magic Johnson ran the floor, but it’s still a great team with great players that have a hunger to win championships! Led by Kobe Bryant, who already has 5 rings, they have been a top team for most of his 16 years with the club. Will The Lakers win another championship before he retires? I sure hope so!

Go, Lakers!

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