There are some spectacular blocked shots in the NBA with guys flying in from the weakside and sending shots three rows deep. But there are precious few guys who own the paint and intimidate. Plenty of guys who can block a shot or two , few who alter more shots than they block. Few who make point guards think twice about entering the paint.
Alonzo Mourning owned the paint. Owned it. And he has noticed the current trend, something he talked about it with Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie (read the whole interview, you’ll be glad you did).
Well you know, they don’t have any shot-blockers anymore. And, to tell you the truth, most of the big men are playing on the perimeter. It’s amazing now, our perimeter-orientated game. One thing I was never afraid of was contesting shots, that’s how I made my living. I led the country my freshman year in blocked shots. As a freshman. And in high school I averaged a triple-double in blocks; 10 blocks a game in high school.
It’s a mentality. It’s a mentality you have to develop, and when you’re playing down in that painted area, the instincts just take over. That’s your painted area, and you want to guard it…
They don’t block shots, they don’t post up anymore, they’re just shooting a lot of jumpers. That makes all the difference in the world. It’s amazing – if I came into the NBA now, like I came back into the NBA in ’92, I’d probably be averaging 30 a game.
The center position (and the idea of position) in the NBA is evolving. But who was in the NBA Finals last year — Orlando and Dwight Howard, the Lakers with Andrew Bynum (and Pau Gasol). Cleveland was missing a piece, they went out and got Shaq. Notice a trend here?
In the end, basketball is a simple game — put the ball in the hoop. A center who can own the paint makes that job a lot harder for the other team. It makes a team much, much better. And while the idea of a center evolves, there will always be room for a guy who played like Mourning.