ESPN's did a great little bit of preview for the Christmas Day games yesterday. It's called 5-on-5: five writers on five questions on five games. It's always interesting to get takes on your team from the biggest reporters and writers in the sport. However, I took a little offense with some of the answers to the first question - The Heat-Knicks rivalry of the late 1990s: Good times or bad times?
Chad Ford, ESPN Insider: Bad times. It was basketball at its ugliest. It's still hard to believe that Pat Riley followed up Showtime with what was, in my mind, the NBA dark ages of physical defense and 78-77 playoff contests. Mike D'Antoni is doing his best to erase the era, but alas, I still don't think the NBA has totally recovered.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: Bad times. They nearly ruined the game. It took the league a decade to recover from the brutish, creativity-free play that Pat Riley instituted with both franchises. Think about it: We remember the fights, but very little about the plays that happened on the court.That's just a sampling of the answers, but it's the same idea. Look, I understand those games weren't exactly lighting up the scoreboard, but I somewhat resent the idea that Heat-Knicks nearly "ruined the game" and the NBA needed a "recovery" as though defensive basketball was heroin. I've seen this kind of talk before. I'm a bit of a soccer fan, and some criticize "Negative Football," a tactic that seeks to eliminate opponent scoring at the expense of your own attack. It's how an undermanned team like Greece could win the 2004 Euro, and how Italy has won most of their World Cups, but it's criticized as boring and anti-competitive. What the experts perceive of Heat-Knicks is the classic Negative Football attack. And I don't understand. The goal of any game is to score more points than the opponent by any means necessary. Why are defense-first teams like the late-90s Knicks and Heat, as well as the mid-decade Pistons and Spurs, shunned? It's half of the game, just like offense. Run-and-gun teams like the Phoenix Suns and the 80s Denver Nuggets get remembered fondly, but they didn't win much of anything. Winning is what matters most, and if you can hold a team to 70 points, all you have to do is 71. Entertaining experts doesn't put one more trophy in your case. The perception will remain, so it's like yelling into a wall. But if I were you, I'd be sure to remember those late-90s clashes as fondly as possible. True rivalries flourish under extreme defensive conditions. The NBA doesn't have gritty rivalries like that anymore, and it's a shame. As a little bonus, here's the actual Chappelle's Show Playa Hater's Ball:
|The Playa Hater's Ball|