NBA basketball right now is entering a golden age. Just not everybody appreciates that.
Charles Barkley swung by the Dan Patrick Show on Monday and together they sounded like grumpy old men telling you how basketball isn’t as good now as it was when they were fans of the sport. At least they didn’t throw in a “get off my lawn.”
“Dan, it’s frustrating for me — and I get paid to watch these teams, so I have to scout these teams — I have to watch all these teams, and I’m sitting here saying I have to go over the schedule with a fine toothed comb to find even one good team playing,” Barkley told Patrick. “When are they playing Indiana? When are they playing Miami? When are they playing Portland or Oklahoma City or the Spurs? Like, I don’t want to watch the Lakers against Toronto. I don’t want to watch the Sixers against Orlando?”
I think they miss the point.
Are there some bad teams now, which leads to some bad games? Yes. Got news for you Charles and Dan — there were terrible teams and games in the NBA when Barkley played. A lot of them. Take Barkley’s arguably best season 1990-91 — his Sixers barely broke .500 with 44 wins and they were the five seed in the East. Not exactly a stacked East, was it? Yes, it was great that year when Michael Jordan and the Bulls took on Detroit or Portland or the Lakers. But you know what, there were games between the 31-win Clippers and the 25-win Kings. Between the 24-win Heat and the 33-win Cavaliers. There was a lot of bad basketball that was not easy to watch. There were a lot of bad owners then just trying to make a profit (see the Clippers and Warriors).
It’s just that 20 plus years later you choose not to remember that part of the league.
The difference is now with League Pass, plus NBA TV and more than just a game a week on national television, we get to see a lot more of the league. Plus when Barkley played there was no Internet in the way we know it now — there were no NBA blogs and passionate bloggers breaking down every game in some detail (which started to force newspapers to cover the teams better rather than ignore them in some markets). The saturation of information was far less intense. Maybe you liked it that way, but that really speaks to you not the league.
What makes this season look so bad is some of the worst teams are in major markets — the Knicks and Nets are terrible right now, the Celtics are rebuilding and miss Rajon Rondo, the Lakers and Bulls are down and dealing with stars who have (or have had) major injuries. So now the star power shifts to smaller markets like Indiana and San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Even Miami, it’s middle of the pack in terms of NBA market size.
Outside of maybe Memphis and Brooklyn, is how much some of these name teams are struggling really a surprise? Not if you were paying attention.
If you are really a fan of the game there is great basketball to enjoy right now, and because of the level of coverage we get to see more of it. Savor how fun Portland is to watch on offense. We get to see Indiana evolve into a contender and Paul George emerge as an elite player. Kevin Durant is just a joy to watch play the game.
And those are just the big names. Today with all this coverage we get to see the little things we would have missed before — Andre Drummond’s emergence in Detroit, Ricky Rubio’s passes in Minnesota, DeMarcus Cousins (on his good nights) in Sacramento, and Anthony Davis in New Orleans. Just to name a few. Even in Philly, Michael Carter-Williams is a revelation and the Sixers are playing fast and fun basketball.
All that is just the tip of the iceberg. We are entering a golden age of basketball. Savor it. Don’t miss out on it because it doesn’t live up to your rose-colored glasses view of the past.
Dan and Charles, you don’t have to get off my lawn. Just grab a lemonade, sit down and try to enjoy the show.