Watching a marathon of basketball games over the last week revealed a few things that have been rattling around after 30some years of observing the sport.
Players jump higher, seem to be better conditioned for a faster-paced game and have shooting accuracy from longer range, no doubt sparked by the 3-point line.
There are a few things they don’t do quite as well as the Neanderthals who preceded them once someone got the bright idea to cut a hole in the bottom of the peach basket.
They don’t follow their shot as well. They give up the baseline on defense, which at one time was a crime punishable by death, or at least running suicides until the ape with the whistle decided you were about to perish.
Too many cheap baskets are scored on inbounds plays, and current athletes don’t shoot free throws any better than they did in the 1970's.
That might be a product of them practicing their dunks and 3-point shot more than the mundane art of toeing a line 15 feet from the basket and trying to perfect a stroke that works under pressure.
Two good (or rather.... highly touted) teams met recently, with the outcome in the balance. They were a combined 8 for 19 on free-throw attempts during the final seven minutes.
The day of the foghorn coach bellowing from the bench seems to have gone the way of the set shot and sweeping hook in the lane. Not that we have a collection of John Woodens sitting calmly with a rolled up program in one fist. Instead, many coaches provide instructions for their players in a continuing monologue that begins with the opening tip and ends with the final buzzer.
There was a time, mostly in the halfcourt days, when basketball was dominated by slow-footed big men who perfected three or four moves in the post and did a majority of the scoring. Today’s game is geared for greyhounds, and in too many games recently guards and wing players dominated on offense.
Players can’t be condemned too much for wanting to dunk and shoot the basketball from a different area code. In addition to those facets of the game making the highlights on a nightly basis, they continue to arouse spectators. You’re never going to hear a fan yell from the stands, “Great boxout number 23!”
It’s possible that I may have gone a season or two without seeing a lane violation on a free throw. Last week, I’m not sure I went a game without one.