Two weeks on the NBA playoff beat confirmed what we here in the college basketball division of CBS SportsLine.com already suspected: The NBA is putrid. There's your slogan: Pro basketball ... it's putrid.
|Ben Wallace's defensive talent doesn't help when he doesn't go back down the court. (AP)|
1. Music: Duke's band has played the same four songs for 25 years, but at least they shut up when the game's on. In the NBA, music plays all night. It's good music -- Jay-Z, Eminem, the White Stripes -- but it never ends. Doesn't matter who has the ball, the music (or a techno drumbeat) drones on in 24-second sound bites. NBA execs must feel their game is too boring to be enjoyed for its basketball. Chauncey Billups driving to the basket isn't enough, but Chauncey Billups driving to the beat of Seven Nation Army ... that's entertainment.
2. Selfish guards: NBA basketball isn't so different from the summer high school scene, when 16-year-old guards try to impress Jim Calhoun by jacking up shots. In college basketball, a player like that is called a "ball hog." In the NBA, he's called "Keyon Dooling."
3. Ref-baiting: Nobody misses a shot in traffic in the NBA. They're fouled -- every time. The ball is going the other way after another of his rocks off the back of the rim, but Ben Wallace is too busy preening to the crowd to get back for defense. And he's the NBA defensive player of the year.
4. Flops: A corollary to Reason No. 3, flopping in the NBA has devolved from a form of art to a form of soccer. The Suns' Amare Stoudemire flinches an arm on his way to the basket, and Spurs point guard Tony Parker slides 15 feet across the floor. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich buys it and screams for an offensive foul. The referees, for a change, don't buy it. But where's a yellow card when you need one?
5. Rasheed Wallace: College basketball only had to deal with him for two years. He has been the NBA's problem since 1995. Wallace has more talent, money and fame than all but a handful of people in the United States, but the fantastical NBA lifestyle encourages a guy like this to feel like he's the one who has it tough. Grow up, 'Sheed. Pretend to enjoy yourself.
6. Larry Brown: In college, a coach with Brown's wanderlust gets fired. Ask Bill Frieder, whose 1989 Michigan team was good enough to win the NCAA championship -- but had to do so without its coach, who was pushed out the door after Michigan learned Frieder had accepted a job at Arizona State. In the NBA, the hypocritical Brown rules with a forked tongue. Question for Brown fans everywhere: What would Larry have done if his shooting guard, Richard Hamilton, had been talking with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the Eastern Conference finals?
7. Set shots: The NBA has gone retro on the perimeter. Jumpers are out. Set shots are in. The 3-point arc is so far, and the defense so apathetic, that NBA players don't bother rising majestically to fire a jumper, Vinnie Johnson-like. Forget that noise. Shawn Marion flicks an unsightly two-hander from his navel. Brent Barry bends his knees and ankles before launching a H-O-R-S-E. Don't forget to call "swish."
8. Locker-room sycophants: True story: Before a game in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Detroit, Indiana shooting guard Stephen Jackson is in the locker room getting dressed. As he pulls on his shorts, he looks around and notices there aren't any female reporters in the room. To no one in particular, he wonders aloud why female reporters would want to be faced with such a potentially embarrassing scene. A short little dude in Pacers garb tells Jackson, "That's probably why they come in here in the first place." Shut up, short little dude, and go get Jermaine O'Neal a clean jockstrap.
9. DeSagana Diop: Diop might be a fine person, but multiple people got fired because he ended up with the wrong Cavaliers. He chose the NBA over Virginia in 2001, meaning Cavs coach Pete Gillen never got to coach the 7-foot, 300-pound Diop, who would have dominated in college on sheer size. Gillen and his staff were fired in March, after what might have been Diop's senior season. Cleveland general manager Jim Paxson drafted Diop No. 8 overall out of Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, foisting the raw Diop onto coach John Lucas, and then coach Keith Smart, and then coach Paul Silas. None of those coaches, or Paxson, is in Cleveland any more. Diop? He's not going anywhere. He's averaging 1.9 points in four seasons. Who'd take him? Wait, you're right. This is the NBA. Someone will take him.
10. Microphone idiots: The Pistons and Pacers, to name two teams, fill down time by handing a microphone to some Generation X bozo who challenges the crowd to make more noise. Make enough noise, and some lucky fan might get a T-shirt! Colleges have cool traditions like the portly Connecticut fan who whips the crowd into a frenzy (UConn! UConn! UConn!) or Kansas' Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk chant. In lieu of traditions, the NBA turns up the volume.