June 6, 2009 § 31 Comments
Boy it’s been a fast month. So much nothing to do that I don’t know what to (not) do with myself.
So I picked up more TV. I’ve been sifting through the straggling few episodes of South Park that I hadn’t seen yet, I picked up a trial membership to Netflix, and I’ve had the pleasure of following the NHL playoffs to a far greater extent – I hear the Stanley Cup this year has its highest TV ratings since about 2002, and is quickly closing in on Pre-Season Women’s Softball as the second-least thing watched on television.
But on the other side of the coin, I’ve been plodding along with the NBA playoffs, too. And this sport I’ll never understand. I could easily argue that the entire game is a wash besides the last two minutes – which will inevitably last 10 or 15 times that long (the final two minutes of this game lasts 9 minutes, without commercial interruption). But I’d like to take the opportunity to dive a little deeper.
Here’s my three-pronged strategy to win at basketball:
1. Strategically pause the game
There’s two minutes left on the game clock, and your team is down by double digits (and, of course, Reggie Miller isn’t on your roster). You’re going to need more time than that to catch up. What’s a coach to do? Just pause the game, repeatedly. Each team is allotted 6 (or 7?) timeouts to use over the course of the game (and extras for overtime, too, when you invariably run out). How frustrating is that for me, the non-die-hard fan? Imagine playing Madden, or any non-basketball sports video game, and just as you’re about to win, the other guy pauses it six times to tweak and fine-tune his starting lineup. The hell?! If you’d just use a clock like a normal person, the match would be over and the team that played the better game wins. 60 seconds left in the game should mean just that.
Why should basketball need 6+ timeouts per game? Football only has three. Hockey only has one for the whole game. Soccer doesn’t have timeouts – it has halftime. Basketball shouldn’t need any timeouts. Among all the major sports, basketball is the only one where the coach is close enough to the players that he can bark orders while play is going. Every other sport manages to get along fine without having to incessantly hit the Start button to make substitutions.
And even still, teams routinely run out of timeouts at the end of the game.
What’s more – for reasons I completely fail to understand (and have no hopes of ever grasping), sometimes when you call a timeout, your team gets to pass the ball inbounds from halfway up the court. So if the other team sinks what should be a game-winning shot, you’re allowed to set your team up within reasonable range of the basket to make what should be an impossible shot – simply because you’ve called timeout. There’s no way this rule can be founded in our common understanding of logic.
2. Break the rules on purpose
What’s that? Pause button broken? You’ve run out of timeouts, you say? Not to worry. You can still slow the clock down further by simply breaking the rules of the game on purpose. Of course, your standard basketball fan will refer to this as “intentional fouls.”
Purportedly, the fouling system in the NBA was set up to ensure a level playing field and provide players with a fair opportunity to play. Smack a guy in the arm while he’s shooting, and it’s going to be awful hard for him to make the shot. So he gets free throws. Seems to make sense – so let’s make it complicated!
In the NBA rulebook, after your team commits X fouls in a game, the system switches from awarding one free shot and a bonus free shot for making the first one to simply awarding two freebies. At Y team fouls, the opposing team gets to take free throws whether or not the other guy was shooting at the time of the foul. The numbers X and Y, I can only presume, are completely arbitrary.
Now, consider Kobe Bryant. He’s got the best free throw percentage on the Lakers, at 85.8% this season. Simple math shows that whenever he’s sent to the line, he’ll return 1.71 points (2 * .858). A little luck from Orlando’s best 3PT shooter, Jameer Nelson (@45%), and the Magic are in the game.
It’s universally understood by coaches, players, and fans, that as the clock winds down at the end of the game, players are supposed to hack and grab and foul eachother. If that’s the case, then there’s clearly a problem with the penalization system currently employed. Slash a guy in hockey and you sit in the penalty box for 2 minutes. Hit a guy hard enough in soccer, and you get a man disadvantage for the rest of the game. But foul a guy in basketball, and improve your chances at winning the game? Preposterous.
And you get six chances! Six fouls before the refs throw you out of the game. Six penalties in any other sport would merit a fine or a suspension. In basketball, it’s just the nature of the game.
3. Let your best player take free shots
Let’s say, instead, that you’re the winning team. What’s the best way to defend against the inane strategy implemented by the other team? Just give the ball to Kobe (or whoever your best player is otherwise), sit back, and watch him make free shots. No defense, no playmaking, no strategies. Often enough, you’ll win the game. Ironically enough, the entire premise of Baseketball was that the main characters were only good at making open shots and didn’t want to move around too much. Turns out, apparently, they would have been just fine in the NBA.
Moral of the story: Basketball sucks. I didn’t even go into the fact that it’s silly how inches in height are just as important an asset as physical strength or athletic ability. All I can say for sure is that the sport reached its pinnacle in 1996, and has been on a downwards spiral ever since.