San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Today’s players more athletic than 20 years ago, but are they better?


Nobody in their right mind wonders if Magic Johnson, Dr. J or Larry Bird could compete in today’s NBA. Certain players would succeed in any era.

But could the average NBA player from the 1980s compete in the NBA of 2011? Well, let’s make that 2010 because who knows if there will be an NBA in 2011. But you get the idea — it’s fun in video games, but could it really happen.

A player like, say, Mitch Kupchak. A North Carolina standout who had a nine-year NBA career, won a couple rings and was a solid 10 points, 5 rebounds a game guy from 1976 – ’86.

Over at, Mike Trudell asked both Lakers GM Kupchak and longtime trainer Gary Vitti to compare the two eras and their players.

“In my opinion, we have much better athletes today but maybe not as good of basketball players,” said Vitti. “There are plenty of exceptions, but many players of today are not as skilled because they didn’t need to be growing up; they were competitive by running by you or jumping over you, and didn’t need to be skilled because of their athletic ability.

“A case in point are the European players who are generally less athletic but have better skills.”

The conversation was sparked because Kupchack’s 14-year-old son Maxwell taunts his dad in 1-on-1 games that he couldn’t make an NBA roster today.

“I think today’s players, to a great degree because of the innovative training techniques that are available that didn’t exist or weren’t believed in 30 years ago, if you’re looking at film may make it easy to say that today’s players are much more gifted than players of the past,” he said.

“You look at the players of the 1980’s (like) Kareem, Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Magic, Bird … they competed, and the players they competed against were able to compete with them,” he continued. “So to say that those players could not play and compete with players of today’s era would not be true.”

There are guys that come through the system now and do have a high basketball IQ, that do know the game. But the depth of knowledge is not what it was a couple decades ago. What would happen to a gifted but erratic guy like JaVale McGee on the 1980s Lakers or Celtics? Would he even get off the bench? Would he play a key role because of his athleticism?

There is no one correct answer, but Kupchak and Vitti have a great perspective from witch to judge.

Carmelo Anthony says he can play at high level 4-5 more years

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Carmelo Anthony can flat-out score the rock — that has never been the question. Even hurting last season for many of the 40 games he played, he averaged 24.2 points a game, had a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent (right near the league average) while having the entire weight of the Knicks offense on his shoulders (32.2 usage rate, fifth highest in the NBA). When people (or players) talk about him being overrated, the discussion turns to defense or if he makes his teammates better. But there should be no doubt Anthony is an elite scorer.

He thinks he will be for a while longer — like another five years. Via Ian Begley of ESPN:

In fact, the 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

The Knicks better hope that’s true, they already made that bet with that massive five-year contract they gave him last summer.

Anthony’s age combined with him coming off knee surgery have a lot of people — myself included — expecting him to take a step back. Not a big one, but he is coming up at the point in his career where some open shots he used to get are now contested because he’s half-a-step slower, and some of those looks don’t fall as often. His jumper isn’t suddenly going to look like Rajon Rondo‘s, ‘Melo is going to get his points, but he may not be as efficient.

Fortunately, the Knicks have an improved supporting cast around him this season. That should take some offensive load off his shoulders, and maybe the Knicks offense will see better ball movement and start to resemble the triangle. If it’s just more isolation Anthony, it’s not going to be pretty.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.