After watching his team score just 71 points in a loss to the Chicago Bulls earlier this week, Phoenix Suns coach Cotton Fitzsimmons -- who stepped down after last night's game -- spoke of the state of the NBA.
"The only people who like it are the ones whose teams are winning. They can take anything," Fitzsimmons said. "But it's still not very entertaining."
The performance by the Suns on Monday was no aberration -- scoring is way down in the NBA this season. Last November, there were eight games in which a team scored in the 70s or less. Going into last night, 22 teams had scored in the 70s or less.
And the lower scores are not just because of an increased emphasis on defense.
"There are guys today who just can't score," Houston Rockets forward Charles Barkley said during a teleconference last week. "With so many teams in the league, there are a lot of marginal guys playing who might not have been in the past."
Those marginal players might be affecting the outcome of games. Going into last night, there were four NBA teams averaging 100 points or more. Last season, there were 13 teams averaging 100 or more. As recently as the 1992-93 season, all but two teams (25) averaged more than 100 points.
Also, going into last night, there had been just 10 games this season in which both teams scored 100 or more.
Fitzsimmons said one possible reason for the lower scoring is the closer three-point line, which leads to more three-point attempts -- and more defenses collapsing in the paint.
Another possible reason: The Cleveland Cavaliers, not the most talented team in the league, had success last season with a walk-it-up-the-court style that resulted in a league-high 12 games in the 70s or less.
The Cleveland style aside, Vancouver Grizzlies scout Jay Hillock said the style on the playgrounds today is also contributing to the low scores.
"When I was growing up, we played half-court basketball, and you had to shoot," Hillock said. "These days, guys play full-court, and all you see are players going end to end, dunking or laying it up. Nobody's shooting the ball anymore."
And yet another reason: On Wednesday, the New Jersey Nets were routed by a struggling Washington Bullets team, and Nets coach John Calipari was actually encouraged that his team shot better than 40 percent for the first time this season. A look at the rosters of the winless Nets, Grizzlies and other teams makes it clear there are players getting key minutes who may not have left the bench five years ago.
"The day I'm going to throw up my hands and quit," Fitzsimmons said, "is when I see Muggsy Bogues post up."
Around the league
Derek Harper was so upset by a shaky team flight back to
Dallas last week that he got off the plane after a forced landing in Austin and took a $225, three-hour cab ride to Dallas.
Bullets guard Rod Strickland arrived in New Jersey on Wednesday with white shoes and, in order to conform with the team's black-shoe look, had to apply black shoe polish. The result: a rather ugly sneaker. "This is my new shoe -- $5.99," Strickland said. "Shoe polish not included."
Explanation 1,736 on why Shaquille O'Neal can't shoot free throws: The Lakers center said that when he was 11, he fell out of a tree and broke both wrists. He said he can't bend back his right wrist much. The fact that O'Neal can make his shots during practice casts doubt on the accuracy of the explanation.
With Barkley saying he would win the rebounding title this season because he doesn't have to emphasize scoring so much, Dennis Rodman issued a challenge, saying the loser would have to wear a dress on TV. "It ain't no big deal for him to wear a dress," Barkley said. "He'd probably sabotage [the contest] and lose so that he can wear one."
Portland Trail Blazers guard Isaiah Rider blew off all interviews when he returned to Minnesota this week to play against his former team. But as he left the shoot-around at the Target Center on Tuesday, he stopped, raised his hands and said, "I built this house. It's still my place."
It took former Bullets guard Robert Pack three games to lose his starting job with the Nets to rookie Kerry Kittles.
The Los Angeles Clippers' Bill Fitch, who coaches the beefy Kevin Duckworth and Stanley Roberts, commented on the league's crackdown on the policy of hiding players on the injured list. The league said it might go as far as to send doctors out on the road to make sure players are really injured:
"We'll let the [NBA] doctor come out here, run wind sprints against them, beat them, and then he'll have proof."
Want to talk basketball? Have any hoop questions? You can reach Jerry Bembry via e-mail at Jeryol.com.
Pub Date: 11/15/96