I suffer the wrath of young basketball enthusiasts when I say that I’m unmoved and barely impressed by this recent barrage of stat-stuffing, ball-suffocating guards who are putting up unprecedented numbers in an NBA that is designed to allow wide open jumpers, uncontested layups and offers little incentive to play defense.
Jimmy Butler’s latest statistically eye-popping show in a 118-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night makes him the eighth different player to drop 50 in a game this season, tying the single-season record, with half the season not even complete.
If that’s not all you need to know about the state of the NBA right now, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a purist’s nightmare and a young baller’s heaven.
This isn’t to knock Jimmy B. He's a ball-controlling, rim-rolling product of the "age of the triple-double."
He dropped 53, 10 boards and six assists (not quite triple-double but close enough) against the Philadelphia 76ers last January, joining MJ as the Only Bulls Player in 30 Years with at least 50 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a Game.
So he’s definitely not a burger having a fluke night a la Willie Burton, when he dropped 53 on the Heat a month after they traded him in 1994.
It’s a dope accomplishment. The fact that they won is ever better. The Bulls are 17-18 and hanging on for dear playoff life in the Eastern Conference as an eighth seed. Excuse me if I wasn’t as overwhelmed about it as I would have been 15 years ago.
Or even a few days ago, before James Harden ball-controlled his way to a NBA 2K stat line of 53 points, 16 boards and 17 assists. “Statistically it might be the greatest single, all-around offensive performance in NBA history.”
At least that’s what the talking heads were spitting. In actuality, Russell Westbrook had about 10 of those anointed games already this season. And Harden followed that Knicks knockout up with another triple-double in a 101-91 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night.
I didn't even know you could have memorable, mythical games during an 82-game regular season. Unless you are Kobe retiring and dropping 60 or Jordan dropping 51 at age 39 or Wilt scoring 100 or Bernard King dropping 60 on Christmas Day at MSG, nobody remembers the regular season. It's all a blur once somebody pops that champagne in the locker room.
At least Harden's performance is heightened by the fact that it happened against the Knicks on New Year’s Eve so Knicks fans will relive that nightmare every year for at least a day. The impact of Harden’s 50 plus points -- and all of the other stats that came along with his ball-domination -- is minimal in the larger scope of things.
Except maybe the hollow MVP race, but that's another story for another sports spliff session.
You can tell me about the advanced athleticism and skills of the players and how everyone shoots the three with more consistency now. I won’t argue with that, but basketball has been the same game forever and there are guys 50 years ago that can get it anyway they want it on any court in the world the same way that guys today do. The philosophy of teamwork was just implemented differently. It didn’t happen as frequently because there was something called defensive pride as well a different set of defensive rules that allowed the art of prohibiting a basket to be respected, taught and required.
Fifty is the new 30 in the NBA these days. Any player with the rock in his hands the majority of the time is a triple double waiting to happen. We went from having one Oscar Robertson in history to one Oscar Robertson-type performance per night in the NBA. I really don't care why it’s happening. I just don't like it. Can’t wait until the playoffs begin.