I have been watching the NBA as long as I have been eating solid foods, but as much as I love it, and as integral a part of my life as it has been, I feel like it is slowly becoming an unrecognizable game.
Rarely does a possession pass occur without a foul being called, and even more frustrating is the fact that players have become so accustomed to whining to the refs that it often feels like basketball is merely an afterthought.
No longer can a team play the physical style of basketball I grew up watching. Teams like the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons or the New York Knicks of the early 90’s could not exist in today’s NBA. Half of their teams would foul out before the second quarter buzzer sounds. But that is not the case in FIBA — players are allowed to play, even if that means allowing that extra bit of contact that has become a distant memory in the NBA.
That is why the FIBA World Cup tune-up games have been so enjoyable for me to watch, and why I am anticipating the commencement of the actual tournament to such a great degree. I feel a bit nostalgic as I watch players play with a physical style reminiscent of the basketball I know and love.
I love seeing a perimeter player move out beyond the three point line to initiate contact with the player they are defending. It is refreshing to see a slight forearm shove from a defender to move his guy off of his spot in order to establish his own position. It is even a bit invigorating that players are only allowed five fouls before being disqualified from the game, only because fouls are called at such a lower rate.
The physical play that is allowed in FIBA, and which used to be allowed in the NBA, represents basketball as it was meant to be played. The gradual wussification of the league I love is maddening to an avid, basketball traditionalist.
Sure, there are great things about the current league. Athleticism is at an all-time high. The game is played above the rim now more than any other point in the history of the game. Talent is also spread across the league more than it has been in recent history. Even the worst teams in the league have upper echelon players, as evidenced by DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummonds’ presence on the USA Basketball team.
However, all of the positives are dampened by how overbearingly the game is being officiated.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the NBA adopt some of the other idiosyncrasies of FIBA. I don’t recommend, for instance, that they allow players to touch the ball while it is on the rim. NBA players are entirely too athletic for that to be allowed.
I do, with all of my being, implore the NBA to consider a path that leads away from how over-officiated the games are becoming. Maybe, just maybe, the FIBA World Cup can act as a catalyst for this trend. Hey, a guy can hope, can’t he?