Matt Barnes says the NBA has gotten soft

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During the offseason NBA TV will reshow some classic games and when you look back at older eras a few things jump out at you. For one, the game was played much faster in the 1980s — the Dallas Mavericks were the slowest paced team in 1985 at 98.8 possessions a game, the Rockets were the fastest in 2013 at 96.1.

Also, back in the 1980s and 90s, the game was allowed to be much more physical.

Matt Barnes was watching some of those old games and sent out this tweet.

There are a lot of fans who ask the same question.

The answer is that many more fans stopped watching. During the 1990s teams used that physical play to turn the NBA game into much more of a grind, a battle nightly, and once the star of Michael Jordan went away a lot of fans showed their distaste for the style of play by tuning out. Ratings means money for television contracts, and money is what drivesthe league.

Calling the game tighter and making hand checking on the perimeter a foul opened the game up — quickness mattered, ball handling mattered, not just who could score through another hard foul. That combined with (and partially inspired by) bigs who could handle the ball on the wings (Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and so on) changed the entire idea of positions and how to win games. Eventually ratings returned (although they now and forever remain star driven mostly).

The bottom line is the guys who played in the 1960s thought the game of the 1980s was soft. Now guys from the ‘80s think today’s game is soft. In 20 years we can hear Kobe Bryant complain about how the game in 2030 is soft. It’s a cycle that will go on as long as the NBA.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.