10:27 AM CDT, April 5, 2011
UConn and Butler gave us such a regrettable basketball game that it’s a shock it didn’t involve a Big Ten team.
To think, I missed Kirstie Alley plopping on her “Dancing With The Stars’’ partner for that?
But here’s the real problem with that pathetic NCAA title game:
The marginal-to-lousy college talent -- air quotes around talent, not even worth real quote marks -- is that it will breed lousy NBA play.
No, wait, it already has. The college game has been unwatchable for a while. Blame the high schoolers going from the prom to the pros, blame the one-and-done guys who go to college like it’s high school detention, blame whatever, but the show is so bad that it’s a wonder the host isn’t Jim Belushi. It’s a joke that college is considered a coach’s game.
And don’t kid yourself, the tournament isn’t any better, either. Not in terms of quality play. It’s just more dramatic.
Same goes for the NBA -- largely unwatchable until the playoffs. Again, that’s because of the drama, but mercifully, there is more than one talented player per team. Overall, however, the NBA would need to fold about six teams just to rise to the level of watered down.
And that’s good for the Bulls.
They already have their young star. They already have their free-agent signing in the low post. They have enough good players to shove Luol Deng down to the third option, which makes my point. Deng is a perfect example of the college game’s flooding the pros with all manner and combination of ill-equipped, overrated and uncoachable players.
Deng was a member of the overrated family, an example of how a general manager fixated on a pretty, shiny thing that became an ill-equipped starting point for constructing a championship team. John Paxson overrated Deng, then overpaid him, then it was over for the Bulls, who were going nowhere with the guy some people just couldn’t trade for Kobe Bryant. Remember that? Yeesh.
And then the Bulls got lucky. They hit the lottery in the lottery. They got Derrick Rose, All-Star, future MVP, and maybe champion.
But here’s the thing: If Paxson had decided that the low-post presence was just too irresistible, the Bulls would’ve become a steaming pile of mediocrity for another decade. Michael Beasley might not have become Dalibor Bagaric, but he looks every bit the well-traveled, ineffective doppelganger for Eddy Curry. And Beasley was the No. 2 pick, people.
Young players who haven’t matured physically, mentally or emotionally are suddenly secure financially, so what’s the point in working to get better? I’m not saying that’s a prevailing attitude, but just watch. Have you ever seen so many amateurs masquerading as pros? Just as bad, the so-called pros who want to learn don’t know how beause they’ve never had to. They’ve never done anything except rely on their talent, which has always been better than the rest of the neighborhood, and probably the rest of the region, and then they look stupid and selfish when they get to the “Association.’’
By the way, “Association’’ is not a hip term for the NBA any more than “skirt’’ is a hip term for a female. Stop saying it, OK? Making it part of your vocabulary does not make you peachy-keen-a-neato or bitchen. You are not a cool cat. And another thing: Using “cool cat’’ makes you a square.
But anyway, it’s undeniable that both the college and pro games would be better if players stayed at least three years. But that won’t happen, so the NBA will be, like the ad should say, where crappy happens.
Which makes the Bulls a team for the next decade, if not THE team for the next decade. Maybe the Bulls’ ascension to the top of the Eastern Conference and maybe all of the NBA happened faster than everybody imagined, but that’s where they are now, and only injury will kill all hope, but only if the injury is to Rose.
This isn’t to say the Bulls won’t face tough competition through 2020, but it is to say that the competition won’t come from college players making an immediate difference. The NCAA isn’t producing much NBA-ready quality, which means the bottom-feeders won’t enjoy some miracle turnaround, while the teams in the middle have no chance -- no chance -- of escaping hoop hell, which means the good teams that retain their great players get the NBA’s version of the 10-year PGA Tour exemption.
But wait. There’s more. It gets even better for the Bulls because they are this good right now with one of the youngest superstars in the league. I realize this good feeling could go ka-boom in the playoffs, but look at the top four teams in each conference and tell me how many of them can combine a young superstar with a quality supporting cast that projects to stay that way. Boston has playoff savvy, but the Celtics find ways to look older earlier and earlier. Orlando has Dwight Howard, the most dominant big man in the game, but I’m not convinced that their new look is a scary playoff opponent. Miami is the biggest threat for all of the next five years because Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are in their prime.
In the West, the top three teams -- the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks -- are driven by 30-somethings. Kobe Bryant will stick around the longest to remain a threat, meaning it ought to be all you can eat for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook soon. Or maybe not. They’re terrific, but it’s still a coin flip whether they’ll ever achieve more than Steve Nash’s Suns used to.
The power has shifted to the East. The Bulls have the best record in the East. We haven’t seen these Bulls with this coach in the playoffs, but I can see how Chairman Reinsdorf talked about four more titles.
And I think Butler just missed another shot.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC