Friday, June 10, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For

It recently came up, as a result of a conversation I had with the redoubtable Andy Aymeloglu, that, as I had predicted, the Spurs-Pistons series (which I did sneak a shameful peek at today, in defiance of my earlier edict against me watching it) is a complete punishment to look at. By the way, the sports-minded among you should definitely read up on Andy's thoughts at I say this both because it's true, and also in the hopes that Andy will elect to forgive me the promise I made to name my firstborn after him in exchange for after-midnight help in CS 106A sophomore year. Comrade Aymeloglu asks, "84-69? C'mon, what kind of score is that?" My thoughts exactly - and that is why I did not (for the most part) watch the game.

What we've been hearing all week from the basketball pundits is that this will, contrary to popular despiar, be a fan's series after all - a marketer's nightmare, but some great pure basketball. The truth is, though, this series, or, more accurately, my fears about it, have caused me to question whether, in fact, we want the game to be played "the way it was meant to be played". Now, there is some common ground. We're all sick of guys coming in with no jump shot, of 6'11" guys who can't even pull off a drop step when it would really help. These are the types of fundamentals we can agree upon. But I think we're all finding out that teams that defend every possession to the fullest of their ability make the game a complete misery. The fact is, if everyone got his man, there would be no - or many fewer - game-saving threes, no silky floaters in the lane just when you really needed it. (Of course, a lot of this has to do with the officiating, and the tendency of the refs to go all-or-nothing on certain types of fouls, particularly offensive fouls away from the basket).

The point is, though, basketball the right way is just no damn fun at all. I mean, who among us wouldn't like to have every game resemble the Lakers-Celtics dance marathons of the mid to late 80s, when each team could be expected to chip in 115-120 points a night? I'm biased, of course - I quite literally learned to swear watching these games as a four, five, and six year old whose yearly family reunions in L.A. managed to coincide with the Finals during the height of Showtime. The fact is, we like glamour. It's nothing to do with having no Shaq or Kobe in the Finals. Well, OK, it's everything to do with having no Shaq in the finals. No one is naive enough to pretend otherwise.

Personally, I wouldn't mind it if Kobe never sniffed that hallowed event again (although preferably he would languish on another team than my beloved Lakers). But in an era devoid of game-changing centers, Shaq lends an ineluctable aura of excitement. (OK, I know Tim Duncan is effectively a center half the time, but he's boring, and, as we have seen, boring is bad). Hence, I propose a Shaq inclusion clause: If Shaq is not, somehow, on a team playing for the NBA title prior to the start of the series, he will be temporarily released from his contractual obligations and inserted into the action - signing one, and, if events warrant, two ten-day contracts. I think the sheer fun of Shaq signing a ten-day contract would be worth the absurdity all on its own. More importantly, though, the rules would be changed so that possession of Shaq would alternate. As a result, gaining home team advantage would pale in comparison to the merits of gaining Shaq-team advantage. Finally, Shaq would win a whole slew of titles, and we could effectively relive the days when guys like Mikan and Russell manhandled an entire league on their way to absolute domination.

I mean, it's only fair, right?


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