I can hear it now. TV ratings are low, scoring is low, and people are complaining. Where is the splash and dash where are the stars, where is the hype, where is the controversy, where is the fun. Over the next two weeks those questions will be asked as the ratings will be low and the scoring even lower. The casual sports fan won't be watching the NBA Finals, the casual basketball fan might watch a little, even the causal NBA fan will want more sizzle and might tune out.

Well I say that is their loss because this will be a great, great NBA Finals. Anyone who is actually a true NBA fan will be in heaven watching these two teams play. If you hate the Pistons, then fine root against them. But please watch this series, because this is what NBA basketball needs to be


DREW SHARP: Will fundamentals overshadow the fun?

June 9, 2005


Fathers, warmed by grainy recollections of basketball as a five-man symphony, gather their sons in front of the high-definition television tonight -- provided, of course, they can pry the PlayStation Portable from their carpal-tunnel clawed hands.

"Put away your NBA Extreme video game, my son, and come watch basketball the way it was meant to be played," the father says.

"What's that?" the son asks.

"It's called a pass. See how they keep moving the ball, stretching the defense? I remember back in the day when the Boston Celtics wou--"

"What's that?" the son asks.

"That's Tim Duncan using the backboard as an offensive partner. That makes him dangerous from pretty much any angle on the floor. I remember my dad telling me when George Mikan wou--"

"Isn't the backboard there just to bounce the ball off it during the slam dunk contest?" the son asks.

"No, it has another use, son."

"And what's that?" the son asks.

"That's Rip Hamilton coming off the screen, running into the lane and pulling up for a mid-range jumper. Sweet, isn't it? Ah, I remember when Jerry West wou--"

"Why doesn't he just take it strong to the hole, split the defenders and -- BOOYAH!!! -- slam it home?" the son asks. "That's how you roll."

"You're not understanding. This is the purest form of basketball. See that? See how they boxed out underneath the boards, denying the offensive rebound? See how they reversed the ball offensively, moving it faster than the defense can rotate, creating an open look?

"You're getting a real education on basketball tonight, son. ... The professional approach and the lack of showboating. ... The attention to minute detail. ... The snail's pace. ... The missed shots. ... The numerous 24-second shot clock violations. ... It's enough ... to make ... you ... ZZZZZZZZZZ."

It's time for the Old School to take its teeth out of the glass and step forward -- or shut up. Old Schoolers have the NBA Finals they've long desired -- the league's two most fundamentally sound teams as well as its last two champions, something that hasn't happened since 1987, the last time the Celtics and Lakers swapped league titles.

The Pistons and San Antonio Spurs share the ball as well as the acclaim, the antithesis of the rampant egomania that the basketball moralists maintain has killed the sport over the last 20 years.

But can these two put the funk in fundamental?

If not, it could be a hard-played, smartly executed, grind-it-up, methodically slow torture -- even to those who profess their loyalties to the virtues of substance.

"They have won two championships with Gregg (Popovich) and not very many talk about it," said Pistons coach Larry Brown, who added Popovich to his bench in San Antonio as an assistant more than 10 years ago. "And we're the defending champs and not very many people talk about that. As far as ups and downs, that's the way it is in basketball, pro basketball. It's a marathon. You know, we've overcome every obstacle with all the supposed distractions. We managed to show up, and I think we helped the game the way we play."

But can that translate to serious interest to places not Detroit or San Antonio?

Even a basketball junkie might envision going cold turkey should scoring become as scarce as a hockey puck this playoff spring.

The NBA becomes a convenient target because of its hip-hop influence. Patience has turned paper thin and if anybody dares challenge your manhood, you must respond forcefully. That attitude was an underlying motive behind the black eye of this season -- the Palace brawl of Nov. 19.

And as much as many fans crave professionalism, they still demand personality.

And that's the one component this series lacks.

Where's the villain?

The coaches are best friends. How can anybody dislike Duncan? Spurs point guard Tony Parker, though, probably merits a fair amount of envy from the male species because of his relationship with that delicious Desperate Housewife, Eva Longoria.

Old Schoolers consider this Pistons-Spurs series as a celebration of team over temerity, but they could find themselves as easily disinterested as the fringe audience if the fundamentals overshadow the fun the next two weeks.

The NBA Finals weren't intended to become a classroom. It's still about entertainment, isn't it?