Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, he of the hot take, said this week that college basketball is, among other things, “horrible” and “ridiculous,” that it’s “uglier than ugly,” and that the poor state of play in college basketball is hurting the NBA game.
Dude, the NBA game is hurting the NBA game.
Last night as the example, Houston Rockets hosting the San Antonio Spurs. Two of the NBA’s best teams, both 50-wins plus this season, the Spurs right now the defending NBA champs.
Must-see game. Turned into a foul-shooting contest.
“Absolutely, I’d trade it any day rather than have James Harden with the basketball,” said Spurs coach Greg Popovich, of the strategy that he employed to slow down the Rockets, which involved having his players intentionally foul Houston forward Josh Smith 13 times in the second half.
Smith, a career 63.4 percent shooter from the foul line, is, for some reason, hitting only 49.2 percent of his attempts this season. He made only 12-of-26 in the loss to San Antonio Friday night.
With the two teams on a possible collision course for the first round of the upcoming NBA playoffs, guess what we can expect of this Hack-A-Smith strategy? Yeah, more, of course, because it worked.
Smith is averaging 12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game off the bench, so Houston coach Kevin McHale wants him on the floor. Popovich will have his guys foul Smith until he either makes a ton of them, or McHale takes him out of the lineup.
That’s called strategy, and NBA coaches employ strategy the same way college coaches do.
Cuban in his hot take went off on how college kids “don’t know how to play a full game of basketball.” Is Hack-A-Smith “a full game of basketball,” because if it is, how far away are we from the NBA Finals going back to tape delay after the late local news?
Calling that game last night a foul-shooting contest is a disservice to foul-shooting contests. It’s hard to figure how a guy who has attempted 214 three-pointers this season can’t make 50 percent of his free throws, but that’s the NBA for you, and you can’t blame college basketball for Josh Smith, because he went straight to the NBA out of high school, and that was 11 years ago.
Eleven years of working with NBA coaches, and a career 15-point-per-game scorer can’t master one of the fundamental elements of the game, a wide-open 15-foot shot that you get 10 seconds to put up.
But it’s college basketball that’s the ruination of the NBA. Not the Josh Smiths, not the Greg Popovichs, conceding that he’d rather win ugly by overusing a foul strategy that is only available to him because NBA rules don’t penalize a team for intentional fouls with two shots and possession.
That’s your game, Mark Cuban, your sport, your business, and its entertainment value, such as an NBA game between two top teams turning into an endless procession of empty trips to the foul line has entertainment value.
If what you’re trying to do is turn college basketball into that, please, man, please, keep your mitts out of it, because our game is fine, just fine, the way it is.
– Column by Chris Graham