This article is being written on May 3rd., just so you know Iím not waiting for an advantage. It is my prediction that the NBA championship series will be between the two #3 seeds in the playoffs, San Antonio from the West and Detroit from the East. They were the best defensive teams in the regular season, tied for the fewest points allowed at 84.3 per game. I like the match-up problems Rasheed Wallace will cause Detroitís opponents throughout these playoffs; he was a great pick-up, and the missing link for the Pistons. And because San Antonio is so inept from the free throw line, a terrible 68.1% during regular season, Iím picking the Pistons to win it all.
Do I want to be wrong? Do I want L.A. to win it? Do fish swim?! But I do have an uncanny ability to make accurate predictions about the NBA, so donít bet against me. Remember, it was I who first predicted that Benoit Benjamin would be the greatest center of all time.
Story of the Week
THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE NBA
As long as weíre on the subject of the NBA, another boring season is in its final stages. The NBA continues to show a decline in scoring and quality of play. It is disintegrating at a rapid pace.
Only two of the leagueís 29 teams, Sacramento and Dallas, averaged more than 100 points per regular season game. 15 years ago, 24 of the leagueís 25 teams averaged more than 100 points. Virtually any offensive statistic today pales by comparison to the NBA of just a few years ago. Yes, zone coverages are now permitted in the NBA, but that rule change doesn't tell the whole story.
ESPN analyst Greg Anthony points to the Detroit Pistons of 1988-89 as the team that started the trend by winning the title with defense. Heís right! Teams donít run anymore. Defense is the trend, and has been for 15 years. But is it really defense? As it relates to the NBA, what Greg Anthony is calling modern-day defense could simply be the inability of teams to score. Teams certainly donít run the floor the way they used to. And, like Anthony, Iím convinced that most coaches donít teach offense the way they used to; coaches today want to call a play and control the tempo because they feel thatís what gives them the best chance to win.
The NBA is promoting individual stars, and kids are coming out of college, or should I say high school, unprepared, for the most part, to play in the NBA. The league is now one-on-one all too often. The standard of team performance is absolutely not what it used to be.
There is an irony here. Some of the best athletes in pro sports, on average, are basketball players. Their bodies are chiseled, at least for the most part, they have to possess great stamina, and they can literally run and jump out of the building. But they donít light up the scoreboard because they canít shoot accurately on a consistent basis, and because team play is not emphasized as it should be.
Look at the subject of assists. Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and John Stockton call tell you all about assists. Oscar is the only player in NBA history to average a "triple double" over an entire season. Magicís assists were "Showtime" legend. And Stockton is the all-time NBA assist leader. But for the most part, the modern NBA is not about assists, and this speaks to the schoolyard basketball that is so obvious in the league today.
The shooting percentages from the floor and from the foul line continue to get worse. And until team offense is stressed and coached in the NBA, be prepared to watch players take ludicrous shots as they set new scoring percentage lows from the field and from the charity stripe, not to mention all the turnovers they commit. Yes, the NBA trend today is defense, but I prefer to call it offensive ineptitude!
Last Weekís Trivia
Other than Bill Duggleby, Bobby Bonds, the father of "you-know-who," is the only major leaguer to hit a grand slam in his first game, June 25, 1968. And this Bonds was not on steroids!
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was the first relief pitcher to win the MVP award in the majors? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.