From Distance: Out of Style

four point play.

1. Over the years, I have talked a lot about Pick-Up Ball. It is how our sense of basketball is formed. It shapes our basketball aesthetic. And boy does it vary both geographically and temporally. Things be different, yo.

When I was a kid, we only played with ones. There were no two-point shots, no three-point shots, and you called your own fouls. The act of drawing a foul was completely useless as it did not net any free throw attempts. Checking the ball up top was your grand reward for drawing a contact.

If someone had mad confidence in their deep ball, they could hoist from 20 feet if they liked. It didn’t matter. It was still one point. No 3-point shots plus no free throws equaled real basketball to me in my 90s formation.

Of course there has always been a difference between organized basketball and pick-up ball. It isn’t as though fouls didn’t exist in 1975 or 1990 or whenever it is that you think basketball may have been better. But it seems that the difference between 90s pick-up ball and 2018 NBA basketball has never been larger.

When I was in college, people started playing with ones and twos. The moment that started to happen, the game became far less fun. Any person with a halfway decent outside game was then rewarded 100% for taking garbage deep shots. As I have mentioned before, if you think a corner 3-point shot is an efficient shot in the NBA, any pick-up game played with ones and twos is an analytical joy; and misery for anyone who promotes the inside game.

Just hoist from deep and occasionally you might get lucky! That mentality has finally gotten to even the most liberal of old school guys. Gregg Popovich recently went on a rant against the current status of NBA basketball. To sum it up, dude hates threes.

Of course, Pop has been a driving force behind the current NBA system. His 2013 San Antonio Spurs helped to revolutionize the game, and set the stage for the Golden State Warriors Dynasty (yes, it is a dynasty now. Sorry).

Nevertheless, like a lot of pragmatic actions, one doesn’t necessarily enjoy the fruits. I, like many people who currently watch the NBA, have a love-hate relationship with the current state of the league.

I love the incredible skill-set being exhibited on a night-to-night basis from the best athletes in the world. I appreciate that in order to make it in the NBA, a 7-foot person is now required to have a higher overall skill level than he did in the past. It is no longer enough just to be 7 ft tall and be able to chew gum. That is all wonderful.

What is not wonderful is the inconsistency of physicality throughout the league. This season, we have seen the referees crackdown on off-ball holding and illegal screen setting. The natural response for people is to say that it actually helps the Warriors to become even more unstoppable on the offensive end.

Defensively, it is another story. What is ironic is that without the constant off-ball holding and general physicality of the Warriors throughout the last four years, they would not have been able to play the defense that allowed them to win championships. Their switch happy scheme required a lot of that holding and boundary-pushing activities.

What frustrates me, is that I wholeheartedly doubt that the referees will maintain this style of foul calling during the postseason. I fully expect the playoffs to be full of holding, illegal screens, foul baiting, and all the general nonsense that has been overlooked even though, technically, it has been illegal throughout the last decade.

People babble about that “hand-check rule” as though it is not something that people still do on a regular basis during the playoffs. Yes, the hand-check is technically illegal. Yes, the NBA has tried to free player movement leading to regular-season offensive numbers. But what is in the books versus what will actually be called in Game 7 of an NBA Finals is drastically different.

Basically, the Warriors are rewarded in the regular season on the offensive end, and will likely be rewarded again later when the referees look the other way on holds in the postseason. It’s not just the Warriors. I don’t mean to seem like I have sour grapes over the Dubs’ victories.

In fact, I would have preferred it if the Cavs had also pushed the boundaries in the same way that the Warriors have over the last 4 years. Instead, other than three games in 2016, the Cavs played a soft version of basketball aside from LeBron’s obvious physical dominance.

Occasionally, Tristan Thompson would do some of those subtle Draymond Green hold moves that have made the Warriors so successful. But in general, Ty Lue did not teach those actions like Steve Kerr absolutely does. As they say, it is not a foul unless it is called.

So far in this regular season, they are calling what is in the books. Cute. They will not call those fouls in the playoffs, and we will be left exactly where we have been every other postseason. It is rather simple. The team that is most physical and shoots the best will win.

And let’s be honest, if the regular season is ultimately just for entertainment sake, why not enjoy some of those 30-footers off the dribble and dunks in transition?! Cake and eat it too, I say.

2. The Western Conference is rather hilarious at the moment. Teams are traveling in packs in the standings. It feels like the first lap of a 1600 meter race.

The Houston Rockets have absolutely paid the price for abandoning their 2017/2018 defense first ideology. Ideology is shown in personnel. If you allow defensive first players to leave and replace them with offensive first players, there is no doubt that you are placing organizational emphasis on offense.

Last year, the Rockets were able to make a huge step forward and contend for the championship because they focused on the defensive side of the ball. By playing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute heavy minutes, the Rockets were able to play a style of defense that thwarted almost every team in the league, and very nearly took down the Golden State Warriors.

The Rockets didn’t want to lose Trevor Ariza, but they also didn’t value him enough to show him the money that he received from the Suns. That indicates their priority. Much in the same way that Popovich currently is suffering through mid-range torture, the Rockets and Spurs made their own beds via personnel.

If your two best players have a certain style, it is very difficult to mitigate that style through coaching. With the Spurs, it is impossible to get both LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan to fully abandon the mid-range shot. It’s just not going to happen. With the Rockets, it was ridiculous to think that Carmelo Anthony had any chance, or the skill-set to replace what Trevor Ariza gave them.

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for either franchise at the moment. If Houston really wanted to win a championship this season, they would have retained their defensive players.

3. I don’t know if you’ve watched much Dallas Mavericks basketball this season, but do yourself a favor and check them out.

Obviously, my boy Luka Doncic is mostly killing it so far in the NBA. This should come as absolutely no surprise to anybody who has watched him play in the Euroleague. But the fun thing about the Mavericks this season is that they play their starting lineup and bench units completely separately.

Their bench mob subs in like a hockey line, and plays almost like peak Nash Suns around JJ Barea. Barea is controlling the entire flow of the offense via Pick-and-Roll ball to absolute perfection. The rest of the role-players like Maxi Kleber or Dorian Finney Smith, dive and cut from both the slot and the corner with regularity, rotate properly on the defensive end, and are athletically present at all times.

They are incredibly fun to watch. Considering the starting lineup has bouncy second-year guy, Dennis Smith Jr and wonderboy, Luka Doncic, the fact that I enjoy watching their second unit even more is indicative of the beauty of their play. I very much hope that Berea stays healthy and the Mavericks continue their fun team ball.

4. I suppose I should say something about the Cleveland Cavaliers. I doubt teams read my little defensive game plan to shut down Collin Sexton last week, but it sure looks like they came to the same conclusion. Over the last week, teams have sat on his left-handed dribble-drive and forced him to go to his right.

Collin’s numbers have fallen off because of it. Fortunately, his outside shot continues to find net. Still, if Sexton doesn’t improve his right-handed finishing game before long, that rookie wall will slam him in the face.

 

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JoeyB
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JoeyB
2 days 46 minutes ago

I seriously think the Q will fill up because of Delly. One of the most popular players ever during a special time.

JoeyB
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JoeyB
2 days 47 minutes ago

I would swap Burks for Knight in a heartbeat if Houston attached picks. Or they could have J.R., if they wanted him. Both moves would free them next year and give them a wing that isn’t terrible.

JoeyB
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JoeyB
2 days 51 minutes ago

I suddenly love basketball again. NBA Champion Matthew frickin Dellavadova.

CLF
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CLF
2 days 59 minutes ago

IS THIS FOR REAL?!?!?! THAT’S A GREAT MOVE!!!!!

JudeElysium
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JudeElysium
2 days 1 hour ago

Delly!!!

EvilGenius
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2 days 1 hour ago

Raoul
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Raoul
2 days 1 hour ago

Awesome. CtB prayers answered.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

Dekker gone too!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

WOW! Nice Haul Koby!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 1 hour ago

DellaveYoda
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DellaveYoda
2 days 1 hour ago

HE’S BAAAAAACK!

DELLY!

EvilGenius
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2 days 1 hour ago

WOJ BOMB

Jason
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Jason
2 days 2 hours ago

Dragic probable for Miami game in Phoenix. Looking good for Heat win.

Jason
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Jason
2 days 3 hours ago

For clarification, my make-it, take-it was for 1v1 pickup. 5v5 was alternate possession.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
2 days 3 hours ago

AND WHOEVER HEARD OF “FOULS ” IN PICK UP—YOU CALL A FOUL —YOU WERE CONSIDERED A ‘WUSS “—-“NO BLOOD –NO FOUL “——–HEADED TO SUSHII BAR / SAKE / PLUM WINE …………MIGHT BE BACK OR WHO KNOWS THE “MRS NOMAD ” MIGHT HAVE OTHER IDEAS ——GO CAVS ……GO NOMAD !!!

Jason
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Jason
2 days 3 hours ago
Next tier up = 3 teams. NY & Brooklyn (8 wins), Miami (9 wins). Everyone else has double our win total + 1, or more. We should not be worried about catching teams with double our win total. NY. 8 wins. Mostly healthy save for Porzingas being out. Mudiay, Hardaway, and Kanter have shown some signs, but this is a team we could catch. If Zinger returns at some point, they get a LOT better. That looks a while off, if it happens at all. Better than PHX/ATL. In group with Chi, Cavs, Brk. Projection = bottom 6. Brookly. 8 wins. Were chugging along close to .500 before Lavert injury. Will be close to that once he gets back (Feb). Losing games in inventive ways & finally have their pick this year. Tanking could happen later on (Dinwiddie, Russell trades, maybe even Harris). If so we could catch them. I think they have a decent lead on us thru mid-Jan due to our schedule. Bottom 6. Miami. 9 wins. About to get Dragic back. That will help. A lot. Dion could miss the whole year. Whiteside situation needs resolved. I expect they (& Wash) tick up and take the last… Read more »
Nate Smith
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2 days 3 hours ago

I don’t hate one’s and twos in pickup. I used to sell out to stop twos and my teams won a lot because I did that screened all day for our best shooters. Thing is, it’s a game. And no one can keep track of twos and threes without a score keeper. Plus, comebacks are always possible.

Jason
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Jason
2 days 3 hours ago

More draft for the dregs stuff.

Bulls. A terrible FO (Parker signing, no backup PG) & HC change. And injuries to Dunn, Portis, & Markannen. Markannen is back & Portis & Dunn have been practicing all week. The Bulls will improve, and soon. Better than PHX/ATL for sure. Could catch Brk/NY. Have their pick. Bottom 6.

Cavs. 1-11 start. 4-8 since. Love out for all save the first 4. Hill/Nwaba/Dekker out recently. Korver/Burks trade. The schedule until mid-Jan is pretty brutal. I think we will play better, but I am not sure we will have much more than 10 wins come mid-Jan.

Sac, Wash, @Mil, NY, Mil, Phi, @Ind, @Cha, @Tor, Chi, @Mem, @ Mia, @ATL, Mia, Utah, NO, Indy, @NO, @Hou, @LAL, @Port, @Utah, @Den.

Winnable: Sac, NY, Chi, @ATL
Slight reach: Wash, @Cha, Mia (Dragic will be back).

Everything else looks tough sledding & that six game trip at the end particularly nasty.

JRL
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JRL
2 days 3 hours ago

TT and JR for Markannen straight up.

EvilGenius
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2 days 3 hours ago

I’m always curious if Griff is Tweeting things like this honestly or ironically…

Jason
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Jason
2 days 3 hours ago

I see it now. Hill for Knight + incentives. Say Chriss + a 2nd. That is not a terrible trade. We get 2 reclaimation projects and I do not think any salary beyond next year. Perhaps a backup PG & a PF project. Houston gets someone who can help now and can be jettisoned when they blow things up next year (CP3 trade).

Think Hill is worth more?

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

They don’t need guards, they need wings. It will be a 3way deal with hill going to PHX and ariza going to Houston and Houston shedding picks. Maybe PHX dumping picks too if they want to dump Anderson.

EvilGenius
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2 days 2 hours ago

No way PHX dumps picks at this stage… even to get rid of Anderson…

Jason
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Jason
2 days 3 hours ago

I do not tweet, what is the deal?

John B
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John B
2 days 3 hours ago

The original tweet he was responding to.was that Houston was trying to dump Brandon knight. Ugh. Hopefully he was tweeting that ironically, because I would seriously question his judgement if he ever wanted another GM job. If you get Houston’s first for Knights contract, maybe. Otherwise, just no Griffin. No.

EvilGenius
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2 days 3 hours ago

I mean, I guess if it was swapping JR’s contract for Knight’s and the Cavs got Houston’s first in 2019 or 2020 then maybe…

Nate Smith
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2 days 3 hours ago

I’d want t least two picks.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

Good luck with that ;)

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

Uh yeah or more. I’d look for hill for Anderson and parts and a protected Phoenix pick too.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 2 hours ago

I think you’re being overly optimistic… Knight is an expiring deal… JR is sitting at home and has another year remaining… Cavs would be lucky to get one future first even protected from Houston…

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 2 hours ago

I wouldn’t wish that on Hill…

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

Yes. They are dangling picks for that contract and a wing. IMO, they want Ariza back. But they can’t take Anderson’s contract

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

It was in response to this Tweet…

NOMAD
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NOMAD
2 days 4 hours ago

PER MEDIA SOURCES —LEBRON WANTS MELO—–LAKERS DO NOT WANT MELO——DRAMA IN “TINSLETOWN ” : )

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

LOL…

NOMAD
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NOMAD
2 days 4 hours ago

THANKS JASON—WE ALWAYS PLAYED MAKE IT / TAKE IT —PUT SOME EMPHASIS AT PLAYING THE “D” ——HOPE THE LAKERS GRANT LEBRON’S WISH –( LUKE PROBABLY ALREADY CALLING HIS DAD FOR SOME “HERB ” )–AND PICK UP MELO —— DOES ANYONE READ INTO POP’S RECENT COMMENTS THAT MIGHT INDICATE RETIREMENT MIGHT BE COMING SOON ??

JRL
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JRL
2 days 4 hours ago

I think Pop is ready to enjoy life past basketball. Things are way different than 10 years ago for the worst.

Jason
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Jason
2 days 5 hours ago

For NOMAD: a little ping pong ball talk you off the ledge.

Bottom tier = 4 teams. Suns (4 wins) + Hawks, Cavs, and Bulls (all 5). All 4 poor & injured.

The Suns are awful. They have no PG, no PF, and now are down 2 starters: Booker (hammy) and TJ Warren (ankle). They bought out Chandler already and seem certain to try and trade Ariza & possibly Warren for some combo of picks, bad contracts, or prospects. Ayton plays no D. Some improvement with Booker out there & post deals. They have their pick + 1st from the Bucks that will likely convey in 2020 (prot 1-7( rather than this (prot 1-3 & 17-30). Prediction = bottom 2.

Hawks are bad, too. Prince is out till Christmas, Lin is day to day, as is the rookie Spellman. They are not very good when healthy and are clearly tanking. Young + Collins are the building blocks. Do they deal Bazemore or Dedmon? They have their pick & likely the Mavs’ 1st (prot 1-6).

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 4 hours ago

Crazy to think of PHX as a team w/o a PG… that always used to be their problem that they had a glut of PGs. Didn’t they have like 4 of them just a few years ago with Dragic, Bledsoe, Knight and another dude? How times change…

CLF
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CLF
2 days 4 hours ago

Yup… and I thought Knight was a good get at the time, he was playing really well, but he got injured and vanished.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 4 hours ago

I guess it was more like 5-6 years ago with Dragic… but they had IT for a few years also…

Jason
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Jason
2 days 5 hours ago

Let’s all laugh at the Rockets and rejoice! Until we realize they were the best chance for the Dubs to lose.

Perhaps Denver/Tor/Philly/Boston.

MikeO
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MikeO
2 days 5 hours ago

The Rockets need more shooters and playmakers…Cavs should trade them JR and Clarkson…

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 5 hours ago

Everytime I watch Doncic this year, he has a bad game… I’ll probably start watching him more so he has more bad games… ;)

JMay
Editor
2 days 5 hours ago

Played pick-up with 1’s and 2’s, no make-it take-it, play to 11 win by two. First started playing pick up ball in the early 2000s.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 6 hours ago

The officiating has been so inconsistent.

ChrisKorvalier
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ChrisKorvalier
2 days 2 hours ago

I’ve been making it a point to tell the refs how bad they are on Twitter every night.

JRL
Guest
JRL
2 days 5 hours ago

Yes it has. I can’t wait for the day robots ref games.

JRL
Guest
JRL
2 days 6 hours ago

Good piece.

The Rockets were cheap and decided that money was more important than wins. They could had kept Ariza and Moute and added more players to that. Instead they let them go and decided Melo was the answer. Oh well…

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 6 hours ago

Yes. They should have but the bullet and stretched Anderson/Knight and used the savings to sign Ariza. One of the most head scratching moves by a Morey team ever.

Jason
Guest
Jason
2 days 6 hours ago

Some things are so predictable.

I knew Melo for Moute & Ariza was a downgrade. An upgrade from Anderson. Not all his fault but Hou taking a step back (though perhaps not this big) was easy to foresee.

Ditto with Philly & Boston taking a while to get things figured out, DH12 not helping chemistry in Washington, and Dallas & Memphis being a lot more successful when not actively trying to lose, and the fact Denver is good with Millsap healthy.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 3 hours ago

I’m sure Morey knew too. He’s not dumb.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 days 2 hours ago

He was dumb in this instance…

JOHN B
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JOHN B
2 days 7 hours ago

Love this piece. The hand checking thing is so true. I hated the late 90s and early to mid 2000s game, but man it has swung so far in the opposite direction that I, like you and Pop, have three fatigue.

I despise the fact that true bigs aren’t allowed to be true bigs down low anymore. Especially on defense. The NBA has nerfed true bigs more and more in the past 6-7 years or so. They could stay on the floor if they were allowed contact against smalls in the lane like they used to be. But it seems to me you can’t touch a guy that is smaller than 6’6″ and sleight of frame without fouls if you are a big.

Gotta watch Dallas more I guess. Usually just watch Doncic highlights. Credit to that kid. And to Carlisle once again for seemingly getting the most out of his personnel.

Ten ThOsman Maniacs
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Ten ThOsman Maniacs
2 days 7 hours ago

Obviously the only way to play pick up is 2s and 3s to 15. No make it take it, this is a gentleman’s game.

Jason
Guest
Jason
2 days 8 hours ago

I have sympathy for the Spurs. Kawhi forced their hand and DeRozan was the best they could get. That is now you 2 high bolume guys being mid-rangers. One is manageable, two is trouble. Murray and Lonnie Walker both get hurt. Parker leaves. Manu retires. And Green is gone in the Kawhi trade. Oof.

Rockets were just cheap and dumb.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 days 6 hours ago

Come on. They were dumb. Could’ve gotten the same deal plus McConnell for Kawhi that the Wolves got for Butler. Then they could’ve gotten Butler! Covington is the best perimeter in the NBA right now, and Sarc would be great under pop.

Jason
Guest
Jason
2 days 8 hours ago

Good piece again Ben.

With you 100% on pickup ball. Play by ones only. Call own fouls. No FTs, re-check at the top. Make-it, take-it. Play to 11, gotta win by two.

MikeO
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MikeO
2 days 9 hours ago

Good stuff, as usual. Rockets getting their just desserts for being cheap. They absolutely needed to keep Ariza if nothing else. The Bearded Turd is going to be exhausted by February, and that team may not make the playoffs unless they make a big move.

Jason
Guest
Jason
2 days 8 hours ago

The Rockets need JR Smith. Do they have anything we want?

Anyone willing to try a reclaimation project on Knight and Chriss for Hill or Smith?

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