Bless Red Auerbach and his curmudgeonly soul. He was an early advocate of the fast break. He invented the concept of the sixth man. He fined his players for eating pancakes after midnight -- five bucks, payable directly to him -- and he wouldn't let them drink water during practice (he thought it weighed them down). And, for the record, that mixture of innovation and folk wisdom led to eight straight championships, and nine in 10 years. Not too shabby.

Even more awesome than all of that, though, was the fact that he hated floppers before it was fashionable to hate them. I take this to mean that he and Manu Ginobili would not have been the best of friends. (Okay, Red would have eaten his spleen for breakfast.)

[Hat tip to Deadspin and TrueHoop, via Bullets Forever.]

Labels: ,

Blogger geremy said...
it's good to know that after this wonderful video red managed to abolish flopping so that we'd never have to see it again on a professional basketball court.

...that IS what happened, right?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
You know, I felt like there used to be just more of a sense of honor or fairness in the NBA, like even if teams could spot loopholes like Hack-a-Shaq and flopping and whatnot, they wouldn't exploit them because they just knew it wasn't right, it wasn't good basketball, and it wasn't good for the game. I mean, players would give hard fouls and such, but it was like there was an ethics to what they were doing where they wouldn't really resort to "cheap" tactics to win.

I think the late 80s Pistons changed all that.

The Bad Boy Detroit teams seemed to take what might charitably be called a more pragmatic approach, and instead began approaching the game with the attitude like "if it can give us an edge, we're going to do it, no matter what." I still remember the outrage people had at not just Detroit's overall dirty tactics and attempts to seemingly hurt other players, but their flopping. People just couldn't believe that players would stoop to flopping to try to sucker the refs like that.

Back then the league should have done something to curtail flopping, back when it was just one team doing it. Instead, they let it go on, and when Detroit won two championships with those tactics, the floodgates were opened and the gloves were off. It was no longer wrong to cross that imaginary ethical line to get your team a win, and if you tried to adhere to some ethical code that wasn't written in the rulebook then you were just ensuring that your team was going to be at a competitive disadvantage.

What Detroit started, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley ran with in the 90s, going with rough, physical defense, flopping and intentional fouls. What used to be "no easy layups" became "it's just good math to make a guy have to hit two free throws rather than get a layup, even if the guy is a 90% foul shooter." Pat Riley's Knicks elevated thuggery to a new level, while Phil Jackson invented the Hack-a-Shaq by loading his team with as many stiffs at center as possible so they would have 24 or 30 fouls to use.

In the last two decades since the NBA's "Golden Age" the league has got away from thinking about the game on the court as an entertaining product that needed to be protected from such tactics which were twisting the game and shoving it through every loophole imaginable. The league needs to do now what it didn't do 20 years ago and take a long hard look at the product that we're seeing on NBA courts game in and game out, and they need to ask themselves if this is really what people want to see. The NBA is long overdue for some changes, and it's about time they realized that. I don't know how many times reporters and fans can write and cry out asking for an end to the flopping and transparency in officiating without it being properly addressed. Let's hope the fines for flopping and the admission of the league of a blown call the other day are steps in the right direction.

Blogger Bugg said...
The good old days, where a charge had to hurt to get the call (imagine tony parker trying to take a charge from barkeley).

Blogger Basketbawful said...
geremy -- Ha, ha, yeah, that's what...what...[sobs]

bugg -- No freaking kidding. He'd die on the spot.

wild yams -- Wow. Yes, yes, and yes again. I totally agree. I've often tried to figure out what definitely changed the NBA, put it on the wrong track. As much of a Celtics fan as I am, I sometimes think it was McHale's foul on Rambis, which proved without a shadow of doubt that doing whatever it took to win could, in fact, benefit you.

But the Pistons took that and raised it to an art form. And I believe that the NBA (i.e., David Stern) allowed it because, when the Pistons started to rise, people were getting tired (to a degree) of the Celtics and Lakers and wanted new blood. Enter the "Bad Boy Pistons," who put on the black hat and became either something to love or something to hate. And love 'em or hate 'em, people watched them. And what makes for good viewing makes for good money...

Same thing in the 90s. The league needed a foil for the Bulls. And during their peak, the only way to counter their talent and the Triangle was pure physicality. Hence the rise of the Knicks and Thugball, Part II.

In reality, Stern and whoever else made the decisions had the league's best interest in mind, from a business standpoint, but it was more about the short-term gains than the long-term losses. Which is what we see now.

And for the record, there's another thing I blame Stern for: The demise of the dominant big man. I don't know if you saw this, but Stern was interviewed during the All-Star break a few years ago, and he said that his least favorite era was around 1994 and 1995, when the Rockets were winning around a low post game and a bunch of three-point shooters. Stern said he thought that was boring basketball and that the people didn't respond to it.

Next thing you know, the rules are changing to benefit perimeter players, yet those limited touch rules do not apply to the post players. To wit, you could not guard Kobe the way you guard Tim Duncan (with some exceptions).

I recently bought the DVD set for the 1986 NBA Finals between the Celtics and Rockets. Both teams tried to post up every time. And the defenders weren't allowed to hug, and grab, and shove a damn knee in the ass of the offensive player. And that resulted in low post creativity. Seriously, buy the DVDs and watch them. It's like watching basketball from another planet.

Like you, I hope this is a step in the right direction. But, and I'm not suggestion a conspiracy exactly, but it's pretty clear to me that the way rules are established and enforced are based around the kind of aesthetic that Stern is going for.

Blogger Evil Ted said...
Sensational post. I love that Auerbach calls out this behavior...he was truly ahead of his time. And this is an NBA VIDEO!

And how about the irony of the "This isn't for referees" statement at the end. Sadly, as WY indicated, the league is different now, and teams will exploit every loophole, so this little video now MUST be directed at NBA refs.

In fact, let's make this the first and last video the recruits watch in referee training. Although I must wonder based on the quality of the product - do refs even GET training these days?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
"I'm not suggestion a conspiracy exactly, but it's pretty clear to me that the way rules are established and enforced are based around the kind of aesthetic that Stern is going for."

See, in my opinion that is not a conspiracy at all, that to me is so patently obvious that I would wager if you asked Stern that he'd readily admit it. I think the NBA absolutely tries to tinker with their rules to create a more viewer-friendly sport. Whether it is moving the 3-pt line in (which had a weird backfiring effect, so they moved it back out), to adopting zone defense, getting rid of hand-checking etc. The league wants high scoring games. Period. And honestly, I have no problem with that, I just think they've been fairly stupid in how they've tried to go about it.

For me the main reason that games nowadays are more low scoring than the games in the 80s is all the fouling. Every time I see any intentional foul, I cringe. Teams back then didn't use do to that nonsense, they just played the game. If you got beat, you got dunked on, you didn't send the guy to the line for free throws. If you were going to foul a guy the way McHale did with Rambis, that was about sending a message, not playing the statistics that eventually even a good free throw shooter will miss a free throw. It's a perversion of the game, just like flopping is.

I can't think of any other sport (outside of the occasional soccer dive, which is harshly punished) where intentionally trying to involve the refs is beneficial to your team; yet you see it on virtually every possession nowadays in the NBA between flopping and intentional fouls. If a player isn't trying to jump in front of someone and flop to draw a charge, he's grabbing him because he let him get in too good of a position, and all those stoppages just grind the game to a halt. You know when basketball is the most aesthetically pleasing? When it is free flowing as teams race up and down the court, back and forth at each other without any dead balls. Those points in games, rare as they are, are like great tennis volleys. It's why the Suns and the Warriors were so refreshing to so many people in the last few years, because no other teams were being coached to play that way.

This is why I've long wished that the NBA implement this one simple change to improve the game: if a ref believes a player is actively trying to get him to blow the whistle, then punish him. Hard. Maybe give him a technical or maybe give his team two free throws and the ball out of bounds, like they are supposed to do with clear path fouls. Send a message that any attempts to try to involve the refs will not be tolerated, and send that message loud and clear. The refs should be there to call fouls only when they occur accidentally. The idea of implementing fining for flopping is a good start, not because the players can't afford the fines, but just because someone will be reviewing game tapes afterwards and looking for those flops and will be rendering judgment on them. I hope those fines will be made known to the press, so there will be a clear record of who the most-fined floppers are, and so that refs will know who most to keep an eye on. It's a good start, but there's a lot more wrong with the league than just that.

One more thing, to address what Evil Ted (and many others) said: IMO the problem is not with the refs. It is with Stern and/or the NBA's governing body. People often unfairly blame the refs for things they see but don't like, when in reality the refs are hamstrung because they're not allowed to go outside the rules to do the right thing. Like not checking instant replay at the end of Game 4 of the Lakers-Spurs series: they didn't check the tape because they weren't allowed to. The NBA needs to change what the refs are allowed to call and what they are allowed to do to get calls right, and they need to make sure they stress to them what they should be calling and what they shouldn't be. One thing is for sure with flopping: every ref in the NBA falls prey to it, and it's not because they're all bad refs - it's because the NBA hasn't changed the way that they want them to officiate these games. That is the biggest problem with the fines for flopping announcement, IMO: the refs haven't been instructed to address flopping in any different way than they have been up till now. The only change is that there will be retroactive accountability, but the onus is still not on the refs to identify flopping in any way, shape or form.

Blogger Hersey said...
Awesome. These vids are great cuz Red had all star players in them. I'm definitely in the anti-flopping camp and have written about it on our blog too.

Like some of these other comments have pointed out, it's always something on defense though. The brutal fouls in the 80s, mugging/handchecking in the 90s and now flopping.

'Selling the foul' won't go away. I think it is lame the league once again will relieve referees of the need to actually do their jobs by fining guys after reviewing game film for flops. I would love to be in the training seminar when they actually determine how to tell the difference. Ok, Duncan running over Nash- that's legit. Chris Paul destroying Kurt Thomas- FINE THAT MF!

Sadly I'm in Europe and catching the Finals requires not sleeping but I'm very intrigued by the refereeing in the series. If they handcuff Boston on defense against Kobe, it'll be a shame.

Blogger Mr. Held Over said...
This just cements why Red is the best coach ever in the NBA. One question though: where's his cigar?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I think Dick Bavetta was an NBA ref when this was made.

NBA needs to address age limits and fitness levels of officials. No Dick Bavetta's or Joey Crawford's pooch.

Then they can actually catch a flop or two.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
For the record, Red and Phil Jackson both have 9 titles as head coaches but Red had ZERO assistants and Red was also the teams GM and scout.

So in any comparison vs. Phil Jackson, technically, Red has 15 titles as GM, 9 as HEAD coach, 9X the number of assistants Phil had when he won titles (or else Phil's assistants should give back their rings) and all of the titles Phil's scouts won.

Anyone who even thinks that Phil Jackson is in the same ballpark as Red is deluding himself. The only basketball coach who even comes close to Red is UCLA coach John Wooden.