What’s more entertaining: Physical action or talent display?

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Last week, the PBA’s stance of bringing back the physical brand of basketball was tackled and the dissenting opinion I had over it. Two games late last week unfolded one after the other to reinforce my point.

Physical Play, the PBA Brand

Game four of the PBA Governor’s Cup Finals between Alaska and Magnolia played last December 14 showed the physical  brand of play the professional Filipino players are encouraged to play.

See highlights  G4: Alaska vs. Magnolia | PBA Governors’ Cup 2018 Finals

Romeo Travis was cut above the eye; Mark Barroca sends Chris Banchero to the floor with a closed fist shot to the groin; Banchero escapes his defender and sink a beautiful drive only to hit the floor from a contact after the shot is made. These are just a few of them.

I agree, these have entertainment value because it purports the intensity of the match. But it also endangers players from performing well on the floor.

The amount of money involved to play professional basketball nowadays is staggering. It’s a means of a lucrative livelihood. It is also a lucrative source of income from entertainment.

But, on the other end of the spectrum, fans normally shy away from games if their favorite players are not on the floor. (Remember the time when Lebron James was critizice by missing road games!)

Leagues around the world started to recognize these. They, started protecting players from unnecessary injuries by reducing the chances of physical play and encourage the thriving of skills.

Just compare these cases:

1980s: Kevin Mchale clotheslines Kurt Rambis, a move that is dangerous even in the confines of the WWE ring where the action is rehearsed. The call is just a regular foul.

2018: James Harden can score 50 to go with a triple double because a slight tap or contact to him that doesn’t even alter his shot as he goes to the basket is enough to elicit a whistle from the refs.

It’s actually a business model. “Allow superstar players in your leagues to take the floor as long as they can and let them display why they are the best players in the world. Result: fans troop to playing venues or glue their eyes on their TV screens to watch them.”

That’s why I scratch my head when I saw what Christian Standhardinger was alluding to when he said the physicality in PBA is in another different level; why the Gilas have to adjust to defend without applying contact to the offensive player.

And that’s why I don’t get it when PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial encourages this.

While I get it that it has its own appeal to some audiences, it is not true for all audiences.

A non-Alaska/Magnolia fan who is simply enjoying a PBA championship match would be bummed out if Travis and/or Banchero had to leave the game because of the injury sustained. Or if suspensions or ejections results due to these circumstances.

As already proven in the last two games in the FIBA Qualifiers, the Gilas defense often commit fouls because of this mentality.

It would be very difficult to regularly play with the physical brand and suddenly adjust to the less-contact version of the FIBA Qualifiers and the World Cup, if they get there.

Talent and skill are also entertaining

This use of physical play just to get an opponent off his game is of the old. And for many, it’s really fatiguing to see the physicality aspect of the game used win a basketball game rather than skill.

The defense doesn’t have to apply physicality to stop an offensive player who is waxing hot or get psychological results that takes him off his game! They just have to answer back on the offensive side of the floor.

Have you seen this game last December 13, Thursday morning here where the usually inferior defensive man tried to stop the offense without applying physicality? If not, here are the highlights of this game. I’m sure you will be entertained even if you’re no fan of both these teams.

Celtics 130, Wizards 125, OT

See highlights: Celtics and Wizards Battle In Overtime!

The Celtics and the Wizards hit big shot after big shot as they go back and forth with ties and lead changes in this very entertaining game.

Look notably at the point guard match-up: Kyrie Irving and John Wall face to face.

There will be a defensive liability on whoever is guarding the man with the ball and the offense will surely have the advantage if the match-up goes one-on-one.

And that’s what exactly happened in the crucial stages.

Whenever Irving have the ball, he would eat Wall [or Bradley Beal when switched] alive with baskets from the perimeter or from three point land.

Whenever Wall had the ball, Irving [or Terry Rozier when switched] could do nothing to stop him from getting baskets on the driving plays.

And the defenses did not become physical as they are discouraged under current NBA officiating rules. They just did what they can do, devoid of the physicality.

Kyrie hits one over the outstretch arm of his defender, John answers by dusting his defender and connects an unmolested drive. They do it over and over again.

The impeccable display of skills and talents by the Celtics and Wizards made this game was one of the most entertaining NBA game this season.

Game 4 vs Game 5

The end of Game 5 showed the kind entertainment that talent gives.

Paul Lee recovers the looseball from a broken play and he was wide open in sinking a medium range jumper with about a second left in the game to give Magnolia a 3-2 edge in the series.

Lee is one of the Steph Curry characters who can create fear by launch shots from way out or drive to the basket with impunity.

The PBA is making a mistake of not letting him maximize this kind of talent because the league encourages players to play a more physical defense rather than a straight up, honest one that allows more a player to get wide open or have an open lane for shot attempts without worrying about excessive contact.

It will not be only useful for the Magnolia franchise but to Team Pilipinas as well.

This writer hopes the PBA would let situations like the FIBA fouls and these instances rethink about its position on physical play.

By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS

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