Basketball is dying.
OK, maybe not dying, but gravely wounded. Wounded beyond recognition.
That thought occurred to me as I tried to watch a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.
I watched that basketball game, but I didn’t see any basketball. There was no basketball going on.
There were no pick-and-rolls, no backdoor cuts, no ball reversals, no give-and-gos, no scissor cuts, no curls, no pin-downs. No two-man games. I didn’t see any post feeds, probably because I didn’t see any post players.
There were no bounce passes, skip passes or lobs. There were no inbounds plays, no spread-the-floor drive-and-kicks. I saw no high-low action. I saw no action at all. I saw no basketball at all.
What I saw, for most of that game, was this: One player sprinted up the court with the ball and shot a 3-pointer. Then a player on the other team sprinted up the court in the other direction and shot a 3-pointer. Then it happened again. And again.
This went on and on for large chunks of that game. There was no basketball being played. There were only players sprinting from the 3-point line at one end to the 3-point line at the other end, and chucking up threes.
That’s not basketball. That’s recess.
Here’s the play-by-play for the last 1:22 of the first quarter:
Darius Miller misses a 3-point shot.
Draymond Green makes a 3-point shot.
Nikola Mirotic makes a 3-point shot.
Andre Iguodala misses a 3-point shot.
Anthony Davis misses a 3-point shot.
Kevin Durant misses a running pullup 2-point shot.
Miller makes a 3-point shot.
Davis blocks Green’s attempted 3-point shot.
END OF QUARTER.
There were eight shots taken, seven of them 3-pointers. On most of the possessions only one player touched the ball. At one point in the third quarter there were three 3-point shots taken in the span of 25 seconds. Later in the quarter there were four 3-point shots taken in the span of 44 seconds.
The Warriors won the game 147-140 and the teams combined to take 86 3-point shots in 48 minutes. You think that’s a lot? That same night in Houston the Rockets lost to New Jersey 145-142, and the teams combined to take 106 shots from behind the arc, 70 of them — 70! — by the Rockets.
In a 25-point loss to Miami on Jan. 2, the Cavs took 75 shots total. For the entire game. The Rockets, against New Jersey, took 70 shots just on threes.
TV ratings for NBA games are down this year. Is it any wonder nobody’s watching? All these 3-balls are hard on the eyeballs.
It isn’t every game. It isn’t every team. It isn’t all the time. But it’s enough of the games, enough of the teams, and enough of the time to matter.
There was a time when 3-point field goals were a thing of beauty. Gorgeously geometric parabolas, judiciously employed, thrilling to watch, profound in their effect. A 3-point shot was a work of art. Those who could consistently execute them successfully were artists.
There are still some artists left, but NBA games have become a junkyard of 3-point shooting. On fast breaks, players don’t fill the lanes, they run to the 3-point line, whether they can shoot from there or not.
This just in: Washington’s 6-foot-11, 262-pound Ian Mahinmi (pronounced: “Over here! I’m wide open!”) had eight 3-point field goal attempts in his first 10 years in the NBA. He missed them all. This year, “Downtown” Ian Mahinmi has launched 11 cinder blocks from behind the arc. There were no fatalities, but he only made one of them. So he’s shooting 9 percent (1-for-11) on threes this year.
For his career, “No! No!” Mahinmi is 1-for-19 behind the arc. That’s a percentage of .053. Please, somebody stop this man.
I mean, come on. Zaza Pachulia, listed at a compact 6-11, 270, has shot four times from behind the arc. Not only did he miss them all, two of them were never found.
How about Pistons center Andre Drummond? He’s listed at a mobile home-ish 6-11, 279, and he’s fired up 30 of those babies this season. Who’s he think he is, Smush Parker?
If that’s not bad enough — and, for the record, it IS bad enough — Drummond, for his career, has heaved 60 such cannonballs in the general direction of the basket. He’s 4-for-30 (13.3 percent) on threes this year and 9-for-60 (15 percent) for his career.
Even stars who shouldn’t be shooting threes are shooting threes. Giannis Antetokounmpo is 16-for-94 on 3-point shots. That’s 17 percent. In other words, it’s harder for him to make a 3-point shot than it is for us to spell his name. But still, he keeps on casting.
I miss real basketball.