Sunday, April 3, 2016

Scottie Pippen Does Not Care For Your Disrespectful Youth And Their Three Pointers

Old And Out Of The Way
In the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, there is a wonderful recurring motif as the author describes how the game changed, from decade to decade. Going back as far back as the early part of the 20th century, there were retired players who were more than happy to tell anyone with a notepad that why, back in their day, they had *real* players, and they'd mop the floor with these punks. Decade after decade, James has nearly identical pull-out quotes on how Babe Ruth had nothing on Old Hoss Radbourne, and Ty Cobb would have owned Bob Gibson, and Don Drysdale would have just put Ricky Henderson on his ass and showed him what's what, and so on, and so on. T'was ever thus, t'was ever shall be.

Adding to that file is one Scottie Pippen, who keeps finding it necessary to run down the historically great current Warriors team, by saying that his own record-setting Bulls team of a generation ago would sweep them. And, well, sure, whatever, pops. But actually no, because bullspit is bullspit in any era, and we do not need to suffer with the weak opinions of older people, even when they were one of the 50 best to ever play the game.

Here's the thing that no one seems to understand: in the theoretical video game match up of best versus best when both were at their best, what is never discussed is the setting. If the refs are from the mid-90's game, where hand-checking was pretty much an art and Detroit taught the Bulls how to win by thuggery, sure, the Bulls have a chance. Dennis Rodman would collect a lot of boards, Michael Jordan would do things to Klay Thompson that would get you fined today, Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green would try to reciprocate and get off their game, and Steve Kerr would rack up some technical fouls in a hurry. It wouldn't be pretty, but it also would not stay that way for good, because ball movement works in every era, and eventually the Dubs would move the ball.

But what would the game look like if it were the Bulls who had to adjust to modern officiating? Jordan, a notorious referee jockey, would have exceptional issues. Rodman, a functioning lunatic who lead the world in technicals back when standards were lax and his team won all the time, probably would not last a half. Phil Jackson, used to controlling the game through the zebras, would rack up significant fines. And so on.

As for the actual play on the court... well, to be kind, Pippen might be able to take some of the sting out of Curry. But it's not as if the man guarded point guards routinely anyway, or would be able to do so for every minute without sacrificing his own, very necessary, offense. That job would fall to Ron Harper, one of Jackson's fetishy big guards who Curry simply owns, and who just wouldn't be quick enough to hang in this game.

By the way? The Dubs are a lot more than Curry. Andre Iguodala, last year's Finals MVP, shut down LeBron James for much of that series, and (shh!) James is a harder cover than Jordan, what with the 50 extra pounds of muscle and more inches of height. There are Bulls like Harper and Toni Kukoc who simply have no place in this game, what with the modern advantages in size and conditioning, Kerr would have a fun time targeting himself as a player, since he's going to exploit that matchup with the Dubs' superior bench mob. Jordan's also not going to have otherworldly effectiveness on penetration, since zones are legal now and were not then. And so on.

Finally, there's this. Saying you can cover Curry and keep him to 20 points a game pretty much means that you don't think very much of the dozens of NBA coaches and hundreds of NBA players who are currently drawing a paycheck. Does Pip think that no one in the current era is trying to stop the man? Having the best range and release in NBA history kind of matters, actually. It's not a problem that you can fix by just saying you more macho than these lousy millennials.

I understand, really I do, the urge to declare that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I am, after all, in my mid '40s, and there are a great many things that *are* going to hell -- the movies, the climate, Congress and the Supreme Court, rock music, drinking water, offense in baseball, and so on.

But hoop is not one of these things. The great teams of today are almost always going to beat the best teams of yesterday. Jordan and Pippen's Bulls would have rolled my childhood dominant 1983 Sixers, who would have handled the Bill Russell Celtics, and so on. The game grows. It draws players from more and more parts of the world, feeds them better and better things, trains them on better and better machines, changes the game through better and better analytic measures, and so on.

If those Bulls sweep these Dubs, the game is in trouble.

This just in: the NBA is not in trouble.

And Scottie Pippen might want to stop shaking his fist at clouds, and maybe go hang out with Oscar Robertson, or whoever's next up in the never-ending conga line of Those Damn Punk Warriors to grab the mic...

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