The NBA playoffs have begun and it has become impossible to turn on any sports media outlet without hearing about Andrew Bynum's knee, Amare's big game, or whatever seems to be on Kobe's mind recently. As fans of the sport as it was intended to be played, we don't care all that much about the NBA. The constant media deluge has, however, turned up one interesting nugget.
It has long been the contention of college basketball fans that the product produced by the NCAA is far superior than that of the NBA. Whether it is the four weeks of madness in March, fans that actually care, or the fact that regular season games actually matter, it's not hard to find reasons to agree. Now, however, an unexpected contingent is beginning to see the light.
The focus of a recent Sports Illustrated article is the emergence of the point guard as the most important player on the floor. (How he wasn't before is anyone's guess). In the article players compared the pacing of the recent NBA to something more akin to your Saturday pickup game at the YMCA. "The game is becoming very simple," says Jason Kidd former California guard, before expounding. Copyright issues prevent block quoting, but Kidd's general point is the league has intentionally doctored the rules of the game to turn it into nothing but ten guys running up and down the floor.
Andre Miller, a standout point for Utah in college, agrees. "In college you are forced to think, you're taught how to play basketball. Get to the NBA and you can just come in and run with your head cut off." Miller, now 34, adds that when he started in the league the players seemed to police the YMCA style themselves, with veterans slowing the tempo and forcing more intelligent play. Now "[you] just run and jump all over the place."
In the attempt to get away from the mind-numbingly stagnant "basketball" of the late 1990s, the NBA opened up the game, pretty much quit calling any sort of offensive foul, and gave guards free reign to interpret dribbling rules as they saw fit. In doing that, they turned the game into something that would make Bo Ryan convulse. Recent UCLA product Darren Collison was asked how the NBA compared to college ball. "It's easier. Some people may disagree, but I think it's easier." With the supposed top level of basketball turning into nothing more than a battle of athleticism, it's hard to disagree.