Notes On The 2012 Jordan Brand Classic
We all know there are different levels of intensity in sports. The fourth quarter of an NBA game is played with a different intensity from the second quarter. The NHL playoffs are played at a far greater intensity than the NHL regular season. Allen Iverson in practice has a different level of intensity than Allen Iverson in a game. But the Jordan Brand Classic took intensity to a new low level. If we are going to set the scale from one to 100, this event was a one.
That shouldn’t really matter since expectations for a game like this are something like three out of 100. But it still bugs me that you can get so many exciting prospects together in one place and fail to use them in an entertaining way.
How do we know that the game lacked intensity? First, no one was coaching to win. Every player in the game played between 17 and 22 minutes. All-Star games can be dull at times, but at least you would like to believe that in the last eight minutes, each coach will have the flexibility to put the hottest players on the floor. In this game, playing time was apparently pre-determined.
Second, it seemed like the players were disinterested. Maybe it was the let-down after Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel announced their decisions earlier this week to attend UCLA and Kentucky, but both players seemed more passive than usual. Muhammad turned the ball over five times and was simply lacking his normal aggressiveness. Noel got his three blocks and was otherwise content to coast in the game. At one point Noel watched Anthony Bennett drive by him without much of an attempt at a block.
Third, it might be a pointless factoid, but I find it interesting that Anthony Davis wanted to wear Michael Jordan’s number in this game last year. This year no one chose to wear #23. Maybe people are right when they say this year’s class of high school seniors is missing a larger than life star.
Perhaps in a game so sloppy (48 total turnovers) someone got excited about a future prospect. But how do you evaluate players when all the baskets were scored in transition? Yes, Kentucky prospect Archie Goodwin showed incredible speed going from end-to-end. He set up future teammate Alex Poythress for a couple of nice dunks. And yes, JP Tokoto looked good in transition to open the game, which might make people excited to see him at North Carolina. But as Paul Biancardi noted, Tokoto doesn’t have a jump shot yet. Such important distinctions were not meant to be evaluated in this game. The teams were a combined 7-for-33 from three point range, and Duke recruit Rasheed Sulaimon only managed 50% from deep because he banked in a three.
There were also plenty of unforced errors. At one point Providence recruit Ricardo Ledo threw the ball off the backboard in an attempt to get a crazy dunk. He whiffed on the ball. Then Houston recruit Danuel House attempted a windmill jam. It would have been great if he could have pulled it off, but he couldn’t.
Truthfully only one player shined in this game. Future NC State guard Rodney Purvis had a breakout performance thanks to his hustle on defense. Watch the highlights at 5:40 in the first half and you will see Purvis miss on a steal attempt, but dive back into the frame and still tip the ball out from behind. Purvis deserved a gold star for his effort in this game and that is why he shared the MVP honors despite playing for the losing East team. (Muhammad earned the MVP honors for the victorious West squad.)
Now there is such a thing as an inappropriate level of intensity. When Ottawa’s Matt Carkner pounded New York’s Brad Boyle in the NHL playoffs on Saturday, when Chicago’s Andrew Shaw was ejected for nailing Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, and when Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby flipped a helmet away from a Philadelphia player who was reaching for it, the NHL playoffs probably reached an inappropriate level of intensity.
And I am not saying that these types of games have to be filled with patient half-court offense or hyper-aggressive fouling on defense. But basketball All-Star games don’t have to be horrible.
Football All-Star games are a joke because it takes great timing and planning to execute a beautiful offense. Hockey All-Star games are a joke because elite offensive players always dominate and the goalies just get embarrassed. Baseball All-Star games are a joke because baseball has too much random chance.
But basketball All-Star games can be incredible fun. If you let the stars play major minutes and if you give the players something to play for, you can get quality basketball. Last week’s Nike Hoop Summit was a great chance to evaluate players and it was an entertaining game too.
So here is my advice to future organizers of the Jordan Brand Classic. Give the players something to play for. Have a player draft on the ESPN signing day special. (All the players were in the ESPN studios anyhow.) Or split teams up based on college assignment. Why not have the UCLA and Arizona recruits plays the UNC and Kentucky recruits with future college pride on the line? Instead we had UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson playing on different teams.
Or what about this scenario? Instead of two 10 player teams (which is far too many players for a meaningful game). Why not have four teams of five players play in a mini-tournament with shortened 20 minute games. If you put UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson on a 5-player team and put Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythess on a 5-player team, and let them battle it out for a full 20 minutes, I am sure you would see a much more realistic and entertaining level of competition.
As is, all I can recommend is that you burn this tape. If you are an NBA scout or insane college fan looking for a quick glimpse into the future, you can do better.