We bounced around a lot of different ideas of why basketball isn’t what it used to be. There are a hundred reasons why basketball at the high school, AAU, and college level for the most part is a bad product. The idea behind the conversation was to break down maybe the top 5 reasons or so of what is the root of it.
1.) Style of play Style of play today is much more fast paced than it was before. In the last twenty years to utilization of pressing and the three point shot has really had a big impact on the game of basketball. Rick Pitino in my opinion changed the game of basketball with his up-tempo pressing style and utilization of the three point shot. He took an average team at Providence and took down juggernauts to get to the Final 4 back in 1987. It was their press and the utilization of the three point shot that made them so hard to guard. And hard to prepare for. From that time on more and more teams started migrating from the half court slow paced style to a more up tempo in your face press and run in gun attack. This gave the game more layups in transition and open three point shots and less opportunities to slow down and get shots in the half court offense. Every level of basketball from middle school to the NBA started to utilize this style of play as it was an opportunity for average teams to have a chance against over matched talented opponents. I think it was a style that was easy for coaches to fall in love with. In this system the need for skill isn’t in as high demand than it was for players that can press and get steals and attack the rim. The need to develop a mid range game decreases in this style of play as shooting long range shots, pressuring the ball, and attacking the rim became staples in the sport
2.) Players never learn how to play their position Players today like to play games there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think their love for the game is erased, but there is a lack of desire to truly get better. I watch quite a few high school, AAU, camp, and other grassroots games throughout the year and very few players actually knows what it takes to play their position efficiently. A lot has to do with the amount of games they play no question, but also when they do workout its mostly working on their three point shot and dribble moves to get to the rim. I think kids need to understand what to work on to be at their position. Their development drills need to emphasize the skill-sets that their position needs. For instance a point guard instead of working on a crossover spin move step back from 19 feet they should master the art of changing speeds. Getting into the lane and changing speeds and direction is a point guards life blood. There is a list of 9-10 things that every position should know. Streamlining player development is a very important thing that needs to be done. Coaches are the first line of defense of holding players accountable of this, but in many states high school coaches are limited in what they can do with their players in the off season. Players need to understand that learning how to play their position is so important to take their games to another level. So many players want to just put up shots and play games to prepare for their season when they need to be working on specific things. Streamlining workouts would be a big step in improving our game.
3.) Players are robots today at the grassroots and college level Not all blame should be put on players for their lack of development. Don’t get me wrong the majority of the blame is put on them in the approach they have to getting better or should I say a lack thereof. When watching AAU and high school teams practice coaches put in all of these plays one after the other at a frantic pace. Part of this is a lack of practice time from tryouts to the start of the regular season. Coaches need to put in their offensive packages and need to go at a face pace. I think the issues here are coaches feel as thought the most important thing for players to know is where to be on the court. The problem here is players should be taught how defenders will be playing them and what their options are. The plays should be broken down and explained so players understand when a defender takes something away what they should be looking for . What also should be taught is how their opponents will rotate to them on and off the ball giving them an idea of what to do. I understand the coach’s point of view in needing to put their offense in, but should keep in mind the more thorough they are in teaching their offense the less plays will breakdown. I think young players want to please their coach and also don’t want to be yelled at so the first thing that comes to mind is know where they supposed to be and run the play. I think there should be more of an emphasis put on teaching players how to play rather than running so many plays. The Utah Jazz for years ran a few things and everyone knew it was coming, but they ran it well and understood what to do when their opponents took things away from them. They weren’t robots, they were just basketball players.
4.) Players have no idea how to play off the ball or what spacing is Another big change that I see today than what I saw say 15 years ago is the inability of players to be effective without the ball in their hand. Every player wants the ball, but needs to understand that only one player can have it at a time. Players very seldom know where to be on the floor when the ball isn’t in their hands. They don’t know where and when to cut. They need a coach to scream at them from the sidelines to set a screen for someone. Don’t get me started on the inability of players to set proper screens anymore. Big men that are on the weak-side of the floor stand there waiting for the ball to be reversed or a teammate to throw a lob instead of ducking in or flashing to the high post. Our game today is ball domination. Very few teams move the ball form one side of the floor to the other. The game today is about getting the ball to your best player and the other four stand around watching. People blame pick and roll for this and I disagree. There are teams that run a lot of pick and roll that still get a lot of ball movement out of it hitting the roll man, or the ball handler gets the ball in the lane and kicks it to the weak-side. I don’t think pick and roll has anything to do with it as just like anything else if you run it well you can get good offense out of it. Players need to understand what to do when the ball isn’t in their hands. I think this effects lesser talented players as they need to know the ball will come to them a fraction of the time and they need to know how to cut, screen, relocate, and space the floor. I always teach my players that I work with if you are a wing player and are on the weak-side of the floor stand behind the three point line to have good spacing. This means their defenders will have to rotate longer to them because when the ball is on the other side of the floor they will be in help position and the further they stand behind the three point line the more advantage they will have when the ball is swung to them. For big men on the weak-side I tell them to be a step or two away from the lane and duck in hard to the middle of the floor or be in position to flash to the high post and make a play.
5.) The extinction of the basketball middle class Role players are hard to find these days at any level. Everyone wants to be the next Kobe, Kevin Durant, or Dwyane Wade. No one wants to be the next Jodie Meeks, Ryan Anderson, or Courtney Lee . I understand that everyone wants to push for their dreams of being great players, but I think they get jaded about their own abilities. Those three players were examples of players that developed a skill to get them in a game. They aren’t dominating players that will be all-stars, but found a niche to get themselves into a position where teams need them to be successful. Sometimes a player gets drafted high in the draft thinking they will be a star but find out that they are a role player and are fine with it. Some players can’t take that and end up being pushed out of the NBA for not developing a role. I’m not talking about NBA players though I am talking about average players. Today players have such a sense of entitlement about themselves. Tell them they need top come off the bench or pay a lesser role than the star of the team and they look at you like you insulted their family. If you look at the college and pro games back in the 80’s and 90’s players embraced roles much better and for that the game is better. For the most part basketball will always have stars in it. The issue is the 4th-12th player on a team is where basketball have taken a hit over the past 15 years or so. Very few want to embrace roles and try to develop a skill that can keep them in the game. I think basketball’s middle class has taken a big hit and needs to get more population, hey it worked for the bald eagle how about the basketball middle-class.
Like I said earlier there are a hundred reasons why the game suffers. You can’t just say AAU Basketball cry bloody murder and move on. The roots of this is deeper than that. AAU Basketball is the same as high school, college, or pro. There are some really good coaches that really do a great job and then there are coaches that are bad and the players don’t get anything out of it. It’s unfair just to blame AAU coaches. There are many to blame from players to coaches, to parents and many more.
Basketball as a sport may never get back to what it was,, but with a lot of work form a lot of people can get better. Players will always have talent and they game at the highest level at the NBA will always be filled with great players. Where it will suffer is at the high school and college level. Outside of a few teams in college it is very tough to watch. It seems to me like every team plays the same. Pressing, pick and roll, dribble drive offense, and the Princeton offense are usually the weapons of choice. Very few players know what to do with the ball to get a high percentage uncontested shot. When the game is up and down and fast players usually look pretty good, but the moment it slows down is when it is unwatchable. Very few players know what to do when they catch the ball and that is a problem that needs to be corrected. It needs to start somewhere and it needs to start soon.