Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hoop Hoopla

Things we thought would never happen: 1) Peyton Manning wins a Super Bowl; 2) Gas prices go above $3 a gallon; 3) Kurt blogs about the NBA. It's time to scratch all three off the list...

Let me start by saying I know jack about NBA basketball. I like college basketball infinitely better. College basketball is a purer game, its more fun to watch, the players just seem to enjoy what they're doing better, and the fans are more passionate. However, with all the controversy over the Spurs/Suns series in the playoffs, it made me realize that sometimes NBA basketball can be fun to watch.

The thing that has been the most fun about the Spurs/Suns series is the physicality of the play. Steve Nash gets a bloody nose, Steve Nash gets hip checked into the scorers table, Steve Nash doesn't fight back, and the Suns are down 3 games to 2. NBA basketball is rarely this physical, and rarely this fun, so this is a series we have to enjoy while it lasts. The Spurs are out to win a war of attrition with the Suns, and so far, it's working.

The controversy arose in game 4. With 18.2 seconds left, Nash (the Suns point guard), dribbled up court to try and end the game. As he came up court, he was hip checked into the scorers table by the Spurs' Robert Horry (more or less a role player). This did not sit well with the Suns, and two players, Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw, came onto the court from the bench area. The result: a 2 game suspension for Horry, and a 1 game suspension for each of Stoudemire and Diaw.

This seems like it would hurt the Spurs more on the surface, since their player got a two-gamer. However, Horry is a role player, and not a critical part of the team. For that matter, so is Diaw. The problem the Suns have is the suspension of Stoudemire. With Stoudemire on the bench for game 5 (which the Suns lost), they had 23 points per game on the bench. Consequently, the Suns only lost by 3. The Spurs only had 6 points on the bench, for comparison sake.

The Suns made a huge stink over suspending a star for one playoff game for simply leaving the bench area during an altercation. The rules of the NBA, which were re-written following the fan brawl in Detroit, say that people on the bench cannot come onto the court during an altercation. Doing so results in a one-game suspension, so the NBA is simply being consistent. I think the bigger problem the Suns had was who was suspended.

Amare Stoudemire is an All-Star, All-NBA player. He represents roughly half of the Suns, with the other half being taken up by Steve Nash. Losing him most definitely cost the Suns game 5, but perhaps he should have considered that before going after Horry during game 4. The Suns' losing of Stoudemire actually helped to prove a theory I have about NBA basketball.

The key to winning in the NBA rests with two people: the point guard/ shooting guard, and the big man inside. The Suns have Nash and Stoudemire. The Detroit Pistons have Chauncy Billups and Rasheed Wallace. The Chicago Bulls have Kirk Hinrich and Ben Wallace. The team that will win the championship, the San Antonio Spurs, have the deadly three headed monster: guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and big man Tim Duncan. The Spurs simply loaded their roster better than any other, and will win the championship because of it.

This theory of mine is what makes the NBA less fun than NCAA basketball. In college, you need a whole team to win (a la Florida). You cannot survive with only a guard and a big man and 3 role players. That formula is the long kept secret of the NBA, however. Case in point, Kobe and Shaq. The Lakers ran the table three years because they had a good guard and a dominant big man. Last year, the Heat did the same thing. The Pistons did it with Billups and Wallace. The one anomaly is the Houston Rockets with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. They can't win because McGrady is a choke artist. More proof lies in teams that don't have both elements. The Cleveland Cavaliers have Lebron, not much else, and no championships. The 76ers had Allen Iverson forever, and never won with just him. The Denver Nuggets now have Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, but no big man to balance them out. The Minnesota Timberwolves have Kevin Garnett, but no guard to help him. The formula is quite simple.

So after all the hoopla and the Suns get Stoudemire back, it still won't matter, because the Spurs have simply played the NBA roster loading game better. They have twice as many guards as they need, and that will carry them as far as they need. I'm done talking about the NBA now, because I've figured the whole thing out.


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