The NBA asked us to bear with it, but we can bear no more. Our patience, unlike Oliver Miller, has grown thin. We were prepared for a few weeks of inartistic play to start this lockout-shortened season, but almost two months have passed and fans are still being subjected to ham-handed hoops. If pro basketball is a form of dance, then this season, with precious few exceptions, has been Swan Lake as interpreted by Moe, Larry and Curly.
The Jazz have a 56-point abomination on their record, the Nuggets put up 61 last Saturday, the Bulls and Knicks have traded 63-point performances (remember a certain Bull who could score 63 all by himself?), and the 76ers had 67 and 69 in consecutive games. This is soporific stuff, and excuses that once seemed to hold water are beginning to spring leaks. The players were supposed to be rusty and out of shape, and goodness knows they haven't disappointed us in that regard. But lack of conditioning should affect defense as well as offense, so that can't be the reason 100-point games now occur about as often as Hillary and Monica exchange recipes.
Conventional wisdom has it that the compressed schedule—50 games in 90 days—is hurting the quality of play. For sheer absurdity, this notion rivals anything Patrick Ewing said during the lockout. Players ride chartered planes, stay in swank hotels and have trainers to massage every muscle individually, if necessary. Under such conditions, three games in three nights isn't exactly a week on the graveyard shift. Besides, most NBA players grew up playing pickup games from morning until midnight, seven days a week. Suddenly three straight games is the Bataan death march?
True, the crammed schedule gives ff, teams less time to practice, which is especially damaging because so many clubs are working new players into their systems. But the real reasons for the NBA's inferior product have little to do with the circumstances of this season. The simple truth is that offenses have devolved into all-too-predictable searches for the dunk or the three-pointer, that the consistent outside shooter is going the way of the manual typewriter and that referees have allowed the rough, brutish defense once seen only in the playoffs to seep into the regular season.
These flaws can't be blamed on the 1999 season, so you can stop waiting for the NBA to show you the best it has to offer. You're already looking at it.