What was to be a Christmas gift for all pro hoops fans happened on Dec. 25. Like Santa Claus, the NBA returned to town. But unlike Santa Claus, this faux NBA was not as gifted and gift-giving as the real NBA.
The lockout produced a truncated, compressed National Basketball Association schedule that at times seems as it was thrown together without any concerns about game quality, players' health or fans' remorse.
Back-to-back-to-back-to-back is one of the themes of this sorry season. Other themes include mental fatigue, tired legs, weary bones, a bunch of even more injured players than ever and ejected and dejected coaches and a schedule from hell.
Players nowadays decline more than ever to speak to the media after games. Shooting percentages, minutes played, enthusiasm, spirit, verve, excellence, effort—all seem to have belonged to the other NBA, not this faux NBA.
Players reported late, out of shape. Trades were made. Guys have struggled in many instances to fit in. For some, there is doubt they ever will. A lack of any kind of a true training camp contributed to all of this. Players bonding, chemistry coming together, that was then.
Today, malaise rules most teams. Energy baskets most of the time are reminders of times past, not highlight reel stuff for today. Players are “out,” “day to day,” “uncertain for tonight’s game.” On the bench, players are in expensive suits, scowling, smiling, subdued, but not “having game.”
According to Washington coach Flip Saunders following last Monday's practice, "I've never been a proponent of [summer exhibition games]. I think you pick up too many bad habits and a lot of things you think are going to be very easy [are not]. I don't think I saw a charge all summer long."
It’s where we are -- we'll continue to work at this thing and get it better, he said. It’s not something that we’re just going to hope and pray and wish, and all the good things like that. It’s something that we’re going to have to continue to work on. This is not easy. If we made it look easy in the past, it’s not easy so far.
Coaches are castigating players for lack of toughness, for being out of shape, for playing with an attitude to stay out of harm’s way. All await the time when the faux NBA becomes the real National Basketball Association.
In the meantime, there is "maintenance day," massage and cold whirlpool baths, more treatment for sore muscles and swelled heads.
Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing about it all. Quite frankly, there should have been some control over a game that got away from us but still costs the same amount of money (sometimes more) to attend.
Quite frankly, maybe some refunds are in order.
=================A noted oral historian and sports journalist, Harvey Frommer has written many sports books, including Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, and of course Bleacher Report among other publications.
Visit his website and purchase books here: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/