Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Golden State Warriors Beat the Boston Celtics: A Holiday Reminder of the NBA's Biggest Problem

I've always loved playing basketball. There is something easier about the game, about being able to turn your brain off and just go on instinct. So it is with some sadness that I throw stones at the National Basketball Association.

After all, it is a collection of the ultimate basketball players on the planet. I'd argue the ultimate athletes.

However, you cannot love the game and sit idly by while the defending NBA champions lose to the Golden State Warriors. That would be the newly-christened 27-4 Boston Celtics losing by 10 to the 9-22 boys from the City (or at least the city next to the City).

There is just no way that should ever happen, not if the Celtics exert some effort. Not if they play hard.

And don't give me that second game of a back-to-back nonsense. Or the letdown malarkey from having a 19-game win streak broken by the Los Angeles Lakers the previous night.

These are the defending champs. Champs are supposed to have enough resolve and leadership to be resilient, to be tough enough to beat the dregs of the league on their worst nights. But not in the NBA.

Not in the regular season, anyway.

This is a team that features Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. Throw in Rajon Rondo for good measure and that's a fearsome foursome that is absurd next to Golden State's quartet of Stephen Jackson, Monte Ellis, Jamal Crawford, and Cory Maggette.

Of course, the Warriors won last night featuring a top four of Stephen Jackson, Andris Biedrins, Marco Belinelli, and Ronny Turiaf.

No, that's not a typo. Golden State beat the defending NBA champs without three of its top four players. Beat 'em by 10. The Warriors actually entered the fourth quarter trailing by eight and outscored Boston by 18 with a skeleton crew.

And the Boston Celtics are by no means the only team guilty of such embarrassing performances.

It has become par for the course in the NBA to just coast through the regular season. When a rival or a top contender comes to town, the A-game gets laced up. Ditto if you go on the road for a big showdown.

But when the weak, no-name teams pop up on the schedule? Eh...

We'll let you know, Coach.

That's why I can't pay serious attention until the stretch-run starts to take shape. Once teams start staring down the barrel of playoff qualification, urgency demands effort and the games pick up. Until then, though, it's a crapshoot.

You might see Kobe Bryant drop 81 points on the Toronto Raptors. Or you might see the best team in the League sleepwalk through a spanking at the hands of one its worst. That's crap. But how can you blame the players?

Most of these guys are kids, literally. A handful might actually be teenagers when they first get drafted. Youthful immaturity and arrogance combined with millions of dollars and infinite adoration will do funny things to a person (I'm guessing here).

Furthermore, the NBA deftly removes back-to-back games from the playoff schedule, a convenient little tweak on two fronts: it enables more telecasts with less overlap and it ensures optimal effort in each game.

Of course, it also tells the player that they can't be expected to put out two nights in a row.

Let me get this straight. Great salary, legions of fans, and I don't have to try all the time? Where do I sign up?

And that's what's happening. Some members of the media make excuses such as the back-to-back stuff (these guys are professional athletes, right?). Coaches who demand effort on a daily basis are labeled Draconian and shown the door. Millionaires actually quit doing their "job" when they don't like what the coach is preaching, and that's just fine by us.

Players refuse to play hard, to earn their asinine paychecks. So, yep, Coach must be the problem. Exit stage left.

David Stern and the NBA powers-that-be have long since turned the asylum over to the lunatics.

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