NBA Action: It's Craptastic
Well, I’m back from the Bucks game. Milwaukee lost, and I was completely unphased. Anyway, as promised, today I’d like to go over the numerous reasons that I hate the NBA. But first, a few comments about the absurd halftime presentation at the Bucks game:
Near the end of halftime, the Bucks honored local schools that won a competition entitled the “PB&J Challenge.” The idea itself was noble enough–a contest to see what school could collect the most jars of peanut butter and jelly for underprivileged families. The presentation was hilarious, though. First, a mascot in the form of a gigantic smiling peanut butter and jelly sandwich sauntered onto the court. Food mascots are always high comedy. Then a number of people spoke about the PB&J Challenge, with one woman uttering the line “We’d like to thank one of our sponsors, Smuckers. Jelly is an essential part of the PB&J Challenge.” Yeah, we know–it’s about 50% of the challenge to be exact. And of course, throughout the entire presentation, I couldn’t help but think that maybe the non-perishable food focus was a bit too narrow in this competition. Sure, I love PB&J, but if that was all that was at the food pantry for a month, I think I’d be hoping for some corn or something. Then again, I’ve always heard that pantries need more peanut butter, so maybe this was actually a brilliant idea. But it came off as incredibly goofy at the Bucks game.
Now, on to those reasons that I hate the NBA:
1) The 24-Second Clock
I believe that the shot clock itself is one of the great innovations in the game of basketball. The college standard of 35 seconds is probably as perfect as can be, and the old college standard of 45 seconds was completely acceptable, but 24 seconds? That’s ridiculous. The problem here is that the NBA uses the shot clock to force more scoring, rather than the more worthwhile purpose of ensuring that elongated stalls don’t ruin games. Sure, the 24-second clock produces more scoring, but the offensive schemes that teams must use in order to consistently get shots off without fear of a violation are pretty worthless. How much passing can you do if you’ve only got 20 seconds to go after you get the ball across half court? Don’t get me wrong–anyone who’s ever sat through a high school game where a team has just had one or two players hold the ball for 2+ minutes (and believe me, I’ve seen a few) understands the value of having a shot clock. But 24 seconds is just too far in the opposite direction.
2) Stupid Defensive Rules
Years ago if I was writing this I would have told you what a dumb idea the illegal defense rule was, and cited the time that I went to a Milwaukee Bucks-Seattle Supersonics game where roughly 65% of the plays were Vin Baker and Shawn Kemp squaring off in an isolation. Now with illegal defense stricken from the rules, I thought we were on the road to recovery. At least such silly de facto 1-on-1 games would be done with. But tonight, 11 seconds into the game, one of the refs blew his whistle for a defensive 3-second violation? What the hell is that? If I’ve got a dominant big man, I should be able to cram him in the lane all night if I want to. It’s rules like this that ensure that 20 years from now the center position will only be a memory. And the worst part of all? The penalty for a defensive 3-second violation is a technical foul. Doesn’t that seem a bit harsh? My friend Dez noted to me upon discussing this issue that you’re pretty much giving the same penalty to the guy who stands in the lane for three seconds as you’re giving to the guy who cold-cocks his opponent. Yeah, that seems fair.
3) That No-Charge Circle In the Lane
Since I’m talking about bad rules dealing with the lane, this seems like the next logical thing to touch on. This one actually scares me a bit, since there’s talk about it being implemented in college. So let me get this straight–so long as I make the mistake of getting defensive position inside of a half circle that sits at the most prime spot on the entire court, my opponent can be completely out of control and run me over. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been there (so long as it’s less than 3 seconds). And they can’t call charging on him. Yeah, that seems logical. Why should the defense be allowed to stand anywhere that might make sense?
4) The Dance Teams
Something about the Milwaukee Bucks’ dance team, Energee, has never quite sat right with me. Part of it is certainly that I hate teams that spell their names in a creative manner, but I think part of it has to do with the part-time nature of the gig. Maybe it’s just my own hang-up, but I find the team less interesting and alluring if I’ve got it stuck in the back of my mind that tomorrow morning they’ve going to wake up to go work at the teller window at the bank, or be on the road selling insurance. In college, at least we know ahead of time that everyone’s a student, and we can deal with this issue up front in our minds.
5) The Price
My friend Dez, who organized the night at the game, actually received his tickets for free from a business contact, and noted that that’s basically the only way that he’d ever go to an NBA game. When I looked down at my ticket and saw that the face value was $100.00, I knew why he said this. And I remembered why I hadn’t been to an NBA game in nearly two years. Is it really worth $100.00 to see two teams run up and down the court in a half-assed manner? Speaking of which...
6) The Half-Assed Manner of Play
Pro players don’t go as hard as college players–that’s just a fact. I’m not blaming the players by any means. After all, it would be physically impossible to put forth a 100% effort for every game of an 82 game season, not even including playoffs. And frankly, I can also understand that it’s probably easier for a guy to get pumped up about playing for a college that he’s wanted to play for since he was a child than it is to motivate himself to give his all for the team that claimed him off of waivers two weeks earlier. Again, I can’t really blame the players for either of these things–sometimes a situation just dictates that things happen in a certain manner. And the NBA system dictates that some effort and emotion be rationed. I prefer to see unbridled effort an emotion.
7) Lack of Player Desire
Don’t get me wrong, some of these guys love the game, and would give their right arm for a win, but a huge number of them seem to just be there to pick up a check. Tonight during a timeout in the fourth quarter I saw Bucks forward Jiri Welsch looking away from the team huddle to watch Bucks’ mascot Bango Buck do trampoline dunks. It’s the fourth freaking game of the season, and this guy’s already checked out of taking in the game plan and is watching a grown man in a gigantic furry costume leap off of a trampoline so that he can put a ball through a hoop in a creative manner. Somehow I doubt we’d see that from the 12th man on Michigan State’s bench.
8) The Advancement of the Ball With a Timeout
Anyone who’s watched the end of a close NBA game knows that it’s a brutal thing. Timeout after timeout. Teams have too many timeouts to begin with, but the fact that they can use these timeouts in the waning moments of games to advance the ball from the baseline to halfcourt after the other team scores amplifies this. Tonight’s game, for instance, was unlikely to be won by the Bucks in the final minutes, but both teams made liberal use of their remaining timeouts to ensure that there would be no backcourt mishaps, and advanced the ball to halfcourt. For years fans of all levels of basketball have been lamenting how long the ends of games are, and that something needs to be done to speed up the process. For the NBA, perhaps a good first step would be not providing an incentive to slow the game down with timeouts.
9) The General Atmosphere
I don’t know how to sum this one up best with words. Perhaps the best that I can do is note the announcement for the halftime event that preceded the PB&J Challenge recognition ceremony went something like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the floor the participants in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 14th annual Corporate Free-Throw Challenge.” Then teams of representatives from various corporations shot foul shots against one another. And I remained confident in the fact that indeed, I was at an NBA game.
And the evening eventually ended with a walk to my car in the rain. God’s punishment, I suppose. I will not abandon you again, college basketball. And thanks to a stroke of good luck, my schedule now allows me to attend this week’s Marquette-Michigan Tech exhibition game. Perhaps my attendance there will somewhat make amends for my neglect of UWM tonight.
Final note: I’m having a bit of deja vu as I wrap up this commentary. I’m thinking that I may have done something similar about a year ago after something good on television was pre-empted by an NBA game. That’s just how deeply my hatred runs.