Work with what you have

It annoys me when sports fans complain that they don’t like a certain “style” of play. For example, people complain that too many basketball teams focus on defense because that’s what wins in the playoffs. So we wind up seeing games like the Celtics-Pistons game last night.

Or they complain that too many teams have no inside game — they live and die by the three. Needless to say, these folks are misguided. As Bob Ryan pointed out in a recent column, the NBA has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. “The Celtics launch, therefore they are,” Ryan writes. More to the point, they have two gifted three-point shooters in Pierce and Walker — why should they try to build some kind of inside game when that is not their strength?

Teams have to work with their personnel. If the Celtics had drafted Tim Duncan the way Rick Pitino thought they would, I’m sure they’d have a much stronger inside game. But things didn’t work out that way. Likewise, defense is what wins in the playoffs. If that’s what it takes to win, that’s the way teams will play. Their job is not to make the game look pretty; their job is to win. Coaches are only playing by the rules of the game and working with what they have been given by management.

The sooner fans realize that and get over their ideal of what their team “should” play like, the sooner they’ll enjoy the game actually being played on the court.

And, as Ryan points out in another column, things are actually looking pretty good for the NBA. The style of play is becoming more up-tempo and the number of young and exciting stars is astounding. But it’s a natural development, not the result of coaches dictating a certain style.