It is with a heavy heart that I offer my deepest condolences for the demise of the NBA pivot game. What was then a staple of the half court game is now but a somber memory. There is no justification for such an untimely passing. Struck down in the search for mobile and versatile big men and lost to a new league of stretch fours and perimeter based plays. In an era that proclaims that it is producing bigger and better athletes, you have to wonder what happened to its largest asset of all, the NBA center position. Heaven holds the faithfully departed.
This may have started with Bill Laimbeer and his 3-point shooting. In the 1987-88 series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Detroit Pistons, Laimbeer was a mismatch problem for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I can remember, before that series, the entire league was scrambling to find the next big man. Hakeem Olajuwan, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson were by products of this search. Shaquille O’Neal was an anomaly in that he was so massive and agile that you couldn’t ignore him. Tim Duncan has always been considered a throw back player. Even so, the atrophy of the pivot was already in effect. So what happened?
I speculate, that the stigma behind being the tallest player on your team, which almost always chained you down to the pivot, had a lasting effect on anybody 6’4” and up and thus the progeny of said athletes. The influx of International players and their lack of post play in leagues utilizes the 2-3 zone as a staple of their defensive philosophies. Most significantly, the passing of Pete Newell and his legendary “Big Man Camp” that taught the fundamentals of the pivot game consisting of positioning, footwork, and passing has created a significant void between fundamentals and talent. His absence has been felt in a most profound way. Couple that with the success of the triangle and there you have it.
Nowhere else do these truths lay more evident than in the perils of Dwight Howard and his undeveloped post game. I pose to you, how is he supposed to get better when he gets limited touches and almost never gets the ball back in the post (a repost is what we used to call this). On the other hand, why should he be given the ball if he has no post skill and is horrible at the free throw line? In this era of deserve and entitlement, no one wants to earn anything any more. This is a tragedy of operatic proportions. So instead of attempting to teach him how to play, you change your offensive philosophy? I will say this, you had Kevin McHale and Olajuwon as resources and you never got any better?
With no teacher and no incentive for these enormous athletes, what will become of them in the grand scheme of things? Your guess is as good as mine but for now, I will pay homage with a moment of silence… Amen.