Friday, February 3, 2006

The NBA and the slow death of Effort

I've been following the Bulls closely since last year (in this post-Jordan era), and last year they showed what a team can do with many good players (none great, not yet) that max out on effort every game: they can win and they can go to the playoffs. They can compete with anyone, no matter how talented.

How is that?

It's called defense.

Boring though it may be to this era of revolutionary touchdown celebrations, it's true.

The Bulls are a good team composed of good, young, energetic players (without a lot of experience) that hustle with a very good coach that stresses fundamentals.

In all, they have everything they need to win.

So why are they under .500?
Why do analysts continue to say that they are "a superstar away from being legit"?

Because effort (which is directly related to defense) has lost its value in the NBA. Talent is in. Dunks are in. Selfish players scoring lots of points are in. Effort is no longer a mark of pride, it's something players have to do if they aren't "good enough," if they don't have enough talent.

In this time of vanity and egos, effort is something to be laughed off and left by the wayside.

Effort gives you good defense. Good defense wins games. Winning is good.

No magic formula here.

But if it's true, why isn't effort given the importance it deserves? Well, effort is inconsistent. Especially in an environment like the NBA. Once you make it to the NBA, you learn that you no longer have to put in all that effort. You've arrived, and it's time for all that hard work to pay off, not to keep on working.

Look at the Bulls: they're essentially the same team (Curry and Sweetney are a wash, although Antonio Davis (a big effort guy) is gone) and are below .500. How come?

Watch the games and you'll see, especially the last two. They were down by 30 in the 3rd quarter and came back, then lost. It happened again two nights ago. They come into the games relaxed and by the time they turn on the effort they had going all of last season (after the 0-9 start), it's too late. They're in the game, but it's too late.

What's sad is that the Bulls have a chance to bring effort back into the forefront. No big-ego guys on this team. All young, they don't know any better. But they won't be given a chance. Even Paxson, wise sage though he is, will conform to the laws of the NBA (after all, that is the environment he works in) and he will bring in a superstar. Will the Bulls win more then?

Sure they will, but watch the effort dissipate to nothing and watch the players slowly turn into every other player in the NBA—selfish, greedy, and obnoxious.

Except for Hinrich and Nocioni, I have high hopes for them.


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