During the Pacers game seven loss to the Heat last Monday, one of the TNT commentators, I think it was Reggie Miller, said the there were only 5 or 6 teams in the NBA that were real big and hardnosed teams (I’m paraphrasing a lot…I mean a lot) and the Pacers were one of them. This got me thinking about the title question. My opinion became painfully clear as the refs continued to blow the whistle what felt like every time down the court even after the game was all but over. While I had long lost interest in the game it seemed like every time a Pacer bumped up against LeBron, they were whistled for the foul. Of course they very well could have been fouls and I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but they looked pretty weak. This isn’t just about the Heat being, in my opinion, cushy prima donnas. As Reggie (or other commentator) said there are only five or six teams that play physical basketball. That means there are 24-25 teams that aren’t physical teams so in my opinion, soft. So, why are all of these teams soft all of the sudden?
In my opinion, it’s a couple of things. One, these players make a lot of money to play and so they don’t want to get hurt for playing too physical and they especially don’t want to risk a career ending injury so why play physical and take that risk. Another reason is that the so many of the fans would rather see 100+ point games full of highlight reel dunks and alley oops that defense has gone soft. As a fan of actual basketball I can’t stand that mentality. Finally, it wouldn’t be one of my posts if I didn’t put a smattering of blame on the officials. I think that some of the reason the game’s gone soft is that the officials can’t tell a charge from a block from a no call half the time and so many teams just don’t want to risk taking the charge when they are almost as likely to get called for a block. I also think that this last reason has led to the plague that is flopping in the NBA. Teams are simply taking advantage of officials’ inability to catch everything and a league policy that is weak at best. While the league may be soft I don’t think much is going to change unless the mentality of the pro game becomes more like that of college which is a shame because if you watched the Pacers this year, you know how much fun that style of play is to watch.
Speaking of the Pacers…watch out for them next year. The Pacers have improved each of the past years and if they can get some depth on the bench this offseason, the sky might not even be the limit. They are resilient and we’ll see them winning with their smashmouth basketball again in a few months. They had a great season and I still think they were a better team than the Heat and they just let an appearance in the finals slip through their fingers…or... just past them. T.O.’s post said it best and if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, make sure you do.
Alright, that’s it for me. Have a great rest of Sunday and a good week! Be sure to check out posts by Marris and T.O. later this week.