Friday, October 12, 2007

More on the world

Following up what I was saying a couple days ago about the state of the NBA, yesterday 4 games were played between NBA teams and European clubs.

First, the Rockets showed off against the European champs, Panathinaikos, with the expected results. The Rockets are now unquestionably a member of the NBA elite; even with the injury of Tracy McGrady, the team is so deep that they were still able to cruise to a 37 point victory. Everyone's new favorite power forward (and my early pick for ROY), Luis Scola, poured in an easy 17 points on 8-10 shooting while also grabbing 6 rebounds. Steve Francis had a promising performance, scoring 11 points in fewer than 20 minutes, but still was plagued by his old demons: shooting for a poor percentage (3-9) and turning the ball over 4 times, the most on the team.

Next, the Knicks played against perennial powerhouse Tel Aviv Maccabi and had the same results. The Knicks were overpowering in this game, shooting 52 percent while holding Maccabi to 42.

Memphis was able to come back from its embarrassing loss by putting a hurt on MMT Estudiantes, a team that I had to look up on Wikipedia to realize are pretty much the Euro equivalent of the Denver Nuggets or the LA Clippers right now, and a Chris Bosh-less Toronto team fell to Real Madrid.

What I realized from this is that the teams tht are struggling against top European clubs are the ones that are employing that patent European style. Memphis, with new head coach Marc Iavoroni, is the newest example of the movement in the NBA and as a result probably the worst. A quick look at the Toronto roster, however, shows that a lot of their players (Calderon, Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Parker, Bargnani, Delfino) are only a few years removed from dominating in Europe themselves, while others (TJ Ford, Jason Kapono, Kris Humphries) seem tailor-made for that type of style. Still, it has been shown that the traditional NBA style is better against the Europeans.

This is understandable because when we think of the difference between American and European players, we think of physicality vs. finesse, athleticism vs. fundamentals. When an American team employs a European style, it does away with all the inherent advantages it has and tries to beat them at their own game. It would be lke if George Foreman decided one day that he wanted to become a quick-dodging, agility-based boxer instead of a plodding hard hitter. He might win some matches against other big, slow guys, but match him up with a light heavyweight who he is trying to outquick and he'll get crushed despite probably being a better boxer. In other words, the European style might work when it is employed by Americns against other Americans, but against its home, the advantages are lost.

Assuming then that Tel Aviv and Real Madrid are essentially equal, are the New York Knicks 30 points better than the Raptors? I'd be surprised if they were at all.