Alexa

Scoring quietly on rise in NBA

Let me start with an apology. I've allowed David Stern's arrogance over this flap with the synthetic ball, the fight between New York and Denver and the trade of Allen Iverson to overshadow the most significant development of the season.
Scoring is up.
I'm not talking about an incremental tick, the kind the league touts when justifying the implementation of a rule change. I'm talking about a genuine shift in the approach of coaches around the league.
Eleven teams entered the weekend averaging at least 100 points. That's as many as the last two seasons combined and the most in the last 11 years. Two other teams - Sacramento and Boston - are a jump shot away from joining that group.
Some will be tempted to label this an offensive renaissance. That's too strong.
What we're seeing is the return of a balanced approach that has been missing for too long.
"It's gone back to where we were 10 years ago," said Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni, whose team is averaging 111.3 points, the most in the league since 1992-93.
Why have coaches who once choked the offensive life out of the game by limiting ball movement in favor of isolation plays changed? Why are four teams averaging more than 106 points when none did only three seasons ago?
The rule change implemented several years ago has an impact. Defenders can no longer impede progress on the perimeter with a hand to the hip or overtly physical play. This allows guards to break down a defense, scramble the opposition and create more open space.
Speed on the perimeter is now rewarded, not negated.
"I see the league getting quicker," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said.
A wealth of quality power forwards has also made a dramatic impact. D'Antoni calls this the European influence, with Dirk Nowitzki and others spreading the court with their outside shot to create seams in the defense.
But it's not just European players. More and more power forwards are sliding to center for significant portions of the game. This allows teams to play small, if you consider a 6-10 to 7-footer who can hit an 18-foot jumper small.
The Suns are the extreme example. Phoenix starts a power forward (Amare Stoudemire) at center, a small forward (Shawn Marion) at power forward and a shooting guard (Boris Diaw) at small forward.
Traditional distinctions on the front line are being blurred. If you can rebound, you can make it work.
"Teams don't play the traditional center anymore," Suns guard Steve Nash said. "They play another scoring option on the floor."
And that opens the door for Nash to be a two-time MVP.
"I think coaches are opening it up a little more," D'Antoni said. "There are more teams going smaller.
"A lot of big guys in this league have the ability to open up the floor up, so guys like Steve are un-guardable."
And guys such as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. The top nine scorers in the league play on the perimeter.
Aesthetically, the shift is welcome. But one of these teams will have to win the title before the transformation is complete. Think back to the bump-and-grind game Miami initiated as The Finals unfolded.
"Right now, it hasn't been shown you can win a championship that way, although I don't know why you can't," D'Antoni said.
I don't know why you can't either.


Updated : 2021-01-24 02:47 GMT+08:00