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Monday, September 15, 2008

"This League is More Than What You See at Seven O' Clock"

Ryan McNeill of HoopsAddict.com has just written a very interesting article about Andrea Bargnani's development curve. Extensively quoting Toronto Coach Sam Mitchell, McNeill brings out a lot of important concepts that not only apply to Bargnani but also to the NBA in general and to aspects of the game that casual fans don't know about--largely because the mainstream media does a poor job of focusing on these things, choosing instead to foment controversy or hype up certain players. Bargnani is a young player who is not only adjusting to a new country but he is also adjusting to the numerous stylistic differences between the FIBA game and the NBA game. As Mitchell put it near the end of last season, "“He’s a young player. You all have no idea how hard it is to play in this league. You’ve got to understand something--Andrea hasn’t been in the league long enough to understand how this league is. The ups and downs. The ebbs and flow of the league. He doesn’t understand he’ll have bad stretches because he hasn’t experienced it before.”

McNeill quotes Mitchell summarizing the whole issue perfectly: "This league is more than what you see at seven o’clock." The frustration inherent in that quote--and the communication gap that it defines--immediately reminded me of something that Hubie Brown told me:

From day one I try to present the (NBA) game to the people to show that this is a game played a foot above the rim, at the top of the box above the rim--because we have the greatest athletes playing at this level (the NBA). Things are erased because of athleticism, shot blocking, defensive quickness and rotation. I want you to understand that. This is not college basketball. This is not FIBA basketball. This is a game called roller ball. It’s played by the greatest athletes and it’s played under complete duress and duress is the key. Now, are you a man enough to play at this level and, more important, to stay at this level? You’ve got to be a tough person and you must have a lot of courage. Well, I want to present this game. I don’t want everybody out there thinking that these guys just met at 6:00 and are playing at 7:30. Why do people say that football and baseball are so strategic and that they’re more strategic than basketball? That’s a naive person talking. They have no idea what goes into the continuities presented by the great teams in basketball.

Near the end of his post, McNeill refers to something that I have often tried to emphasize during my coverage of NBA games:

After attending almost all of the Raptors home games last season, something I never tired of watching was coaches from around the league working with players before games. Players were constantly learning, adding new tweaks to their games and growing as players. While most fans file into arenas anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before the opening tip, it’s amazing to see the kind of work players put in nearly two hours before the game starts.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:12 PM

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