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KIRS Notebook – Today’s NBA Offensive Struggles

What does the Struggles of old school offenses in todays NBA tell us about the eras?
8 messages

Danny Clase 

Hey guys,
I cant help but think about how bad the Lakers and Knicks look. They both have old school approaches to offense and while the Knicks look better on offense then they have before it still looks like a joke when compared to other offenses not even just the top tier contenders but even teams like the Bucks, Magic teams at the bottom. To take it even a step further the Grizzlies need shooting so there “ground and pound” can only work with modern day advances.
Also remember the 2011 you get your i get mine Heat offense that was typical of the 90s style of play? They were dissected by the Dallas Analytics in the finals. In other words I think the NBA is better off then it was years ago in the 90s. I think the struggles of teams who employ old school offenses directly reflect how flawed the 90s game was. What are your thoughts?

Stanley Talouis 
I think the way talent is spread out is a big factor. While the players now are definitely better than before, more teams have talented players. Back in the 90s and earlier, we had these super teams with tons of talent at the top and the teams mediocre talent at the bottom. The haves and the have nots for lack of a better term. The great teams that employed these old school methods were great because of the level of talent on their teams. Look at this year’s Knicks. They struggle but if they had better players surrounding Carmelo and they had a winning record, we’d be praising Phil, Derek and the triangle.I do agree with you about Memphis though. The game has evolved and it’s still evolving. I also think the NBA is better now than it was before but not because of method or style of play but because of talent and versatility of players around the league. Could you imagine what Lebron and KD could have done in 1987?!?

Danny Clase 
Great point. The triangle we last saw that operated at a high level wasnt that long ago in 2010 with Pau, Kobe and Bynum/Odom. How about teams like the Suns that thrived in spite of roster limitations last season. Perhaps the Laker Knicks struggles are arising as a result of old offense that enhances there roster limitations.

Lets take the Jazz and Hawks. By no means would they be considered a great offense in todays game but if they played that way just 15 years earlier it would be mind blowing. I really feel bad for teams like the Kings/Suns that played a game a little ahead of there time. I think they go so much further in this age that promotes big man shooting and passing. Its time to accept aspects of the euro style. The game now looks more fluid than a lot of the stuff we see on NBAs hardwood classics.
We have this discussion many times on the show I have always said that in my opinion NBA today is better than what many call the golden era of the 90s. Now watching the Kings and Pelicans on a random week night you can see the fluidity of the game whereas if you watch any finals series in the 90s the game looks clunky only reaching moments of beauty when dream teamers would prevail. The 90s put the superstar players on a pedestal whereas i feel todays game rewards team balance interspersed with moments of superstar brilliance, i prefer that but its totally objective. I just take umbrage with the notion that 90s ball is better and there is no dispute.

Stanley Talouis 
I’m sure there were guys just like us in the 90s that watched black and white footage of basketball in the 60s and 70s and said similar things. The game evolves and in 20 years, theres going to be people saying this era of basketball wasn’t as good. Personally, the 90s resonate more with me because I was born in 1984 and thats what I grew up watching. Its really a nostalgic thing. Lets call a spade a spade. Even the Dream Team guys had flaws but like every argument about eras, its purely conjecture. Could Tyson have beaten Ali? I say no, but we’ll never know for sure.

You’re right though, Danny. Basketball these days does seem to flow better. Another reason for this might be due to the specialization of certain players and positions. We’ve gone from the five positions on the court to who knows how many. We’ve got stretch fours, slashers, guys that hit the corner 3 (Shane Battier), perimeter defenders, etc. There are guys that wouldn’t have been in the league 15-20 years ago because they only do one thing well. These days, if a player can do one thing really well, theres a good chance he’ll find a team and if he’s lucky, he’ll land on the right team (the Spurs) and flourish. No one is going to mistake Danny Green for an All-Star type player but he came up big tonight to force OT. Monta Ellis is a sieve defensively but he hit a game winning jumper tonight. Its sort of like baseball changed with relief pitchers. In the 70s, guys like Catfish Hunter had to pitch 3 innings to get a save but now  you have lefty specialists and right specialists and guys being brought in face one batter.
To go back to your original point though, the european style is only going to become more and more prevalent in the league not only because we’re seeing more and more european players come over and have success but because a lot of the old school coaches are leaving the game, opening things up for guys with younger and fresher ideas. Its only a matter of time.

Danny Clase 
But if the basis for preferring something is nostalgia is it not inherently flawed? Should we not be able to look at the product and make a choice. I know it may be an era issue but lets take your Ali Tyson analogy. They never faced each other and never will but I think Ali would have destroyed Tyson just based off knowledge i have of the boxing game.

I think the fact that 90s style offenses can not even tread water today reflects on how flawed the era was. Teams like the late 90s early 2000 Knicks and Heat with Clarence Witherspoon operating at the elbow would have been lottery bound this year. Teams at the margins even have innovations. If the NBA is evolving how can we in good conscious even say the 80s/ 90s was better?

Stanley Talouis 
I don’t think that comparing eras makes one era great and the other flawed. The 90s might be flawed as compared to now but does that mean the 90s weren’t also great? By that logic, the 80s were flawed compared to the 90s, the 70s were flawed compared to the 80s, and so on. The nostalgia thing doesn’t really factor in. We all hold things in higher regard than we should because of nostalgia. I know for a fact Citified is a better ballpark than Shea was but I’ll always love Shea Stadium. The subways are better now than ever but theres always going to be a special place in my heart for the old Redbird trains.

As far as whether 90s style offenses determine how flawed the era was, I think it has more to do with more people understanding how those offenses work and negated their success. Its basic cause and effect. “This offense is successful so lets try and find a way to break it down.” In the NFL, we see this all the time. Tony Sparano made the Wildcat offense popular until teams figured it out. He tried to bring it back with Tebow and the Jets and it didn’t work. That doesn’t make what Sparano did with the Dolphins flawed, it just means the rest of the league caught up and figured it out. I think the same can be said about the NBA.

Lincoln Ricketts 
Compelling arguments on both sides, the NBA is evolving to heights that the former commissioner David Stern couldn’t even imagine. One major difference between both eras, we are in the day and age where coaching has taken second fiddle to actual talent and versatility. For example, Popovich and the Spurs can create a plan for 28 teams in the league and defeat them, but when they reach a team without a consistent offensive scheme such as OKC, they falter and lose. George Karl was praised for letting his 2012-2013 Denver team who won 57 GAMES to do whatever they wanted on offense. The average fan would not see this type of basketball in the 80s/90s. I applaud the fact that this could be a style but it doesn’t win championships.
The Spurs won in 2014 similarity to their previous championships, run through Tim Duncan and let the shooters get open. Miami Heat changed their dynamic in winning championships but they used a style similar to the 96-98 Bulls in which they changed their line up to become smaller by including Toni Kukoc in the 4th quarter. While the 90s have their flaws, the modern game has its own flaws as well. We are in the age of PUBLIC tanking and players are just using their abilities to play the game without actually learning the game properly. We can go back and forth on which era can dominate the other (IE Dream Team vs 2012 Olympic Squad) but we should appreciate 80/90’s basketball because they brought the change to the NBA that we love today.
P.S. Don’t forget, Bob McAdoo was the first stretch 4 to dominate the game, they are a lot more now  but McAdoo was giving the business on a daily rate.

Danny Clase 
My final thought is I dont think ball movement will ever go away. This era has changed the game and i think for the better. Its really tough for me to watch 90s games now because I do not think the game was at its peak. A regular game rivals the creativity of most old school games i watch thats crazy to me. Perhaps i may be wrong but i hope the game never goes back to that style.


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