False Lessons From Past Glories
In the era of the three pointer and the endless pick-and-roll, "live by the jumper, die by the jumper" or "let the big dog eat" just don't have currency anymore. Yet the constant repetition of these refrains not only misinforms, it actually influences teams into playing worse.
"The problem is most people commenting on it, played a different way. And now you're shaping opinion a different way," he continued. "As soon as they embrace it a little bit more, I think they're better off. But basketball has changed. It's not the same basketball that your father played. It's just not it. Teams that adapt to it quicker are going to be more successful."
How exactly has the game changed?
"I do think the league is going to a more open style, and a faster style," continued D'Antoni. "That doesn't mean there's no place for a post-up player, there's no place for a mid-range game. There is a place, but it's just not what is dominant today."
"The league now is dominated by point-guard play, three-point shots and smart players," said D'Antoni. "Unless the NBA changes the rules again, like the three-point line and no hand checking, then basketball is going a certain way."
(from: http://www.latimes.com/sports/lakersnow/la-sp-ln-mike-d-antoni-basketball-analysts-need-adapt-20140418,0,4301717.story#ixzz2zIJMNXbo emphasis mine)
On the player side, no one seems more beholden to the conventional pundit wisdom than Dwight Howard. Numerous analysts (usually former players or coaches), most notably by Shaquille O'Neal, have opined for years that Howard needed to add post moves, needed to enroll in Hakeem Olajuwon camp, needed to become a dominant force on the inside. However, the current rule set and general defensive philosophy round the league doesn't especially reward post play, especially for players who are unskilled passers or prone to turnovers. Dwight is both.
Despite being one of the highest usage post players in the league, Howard is, per Synergy Sports, pretty terrible. He scores .75 points per post possession, good for 127th in the league, and a mark which would put him at 12 pts/100 possessions worse than Philadelphia's league worst offense. Additionally, he turns the ball over nearly 21% of these possessions. Finally one of the "good" outcomes from force feeding the post is shooting fouls. Where Howard famously struggles, shooting .594 from the stripe this season (a rate which actually exceeds his career average of .581!)
Oddly, Howard DOES possess a skill set which would allow him to be an offensive beast: he is an elite finisher in the pick and roll. Again, per Synergy he scores 1.28 points per possessions in this area, good for 5th in the league. And just from a matter of offensive geometry, working out of the pick-and-roll compliments Houston's general drive-and-kick, three-heavy style. Further, it allows him to "get teammates open" by drawing help defenders. In this way, he creates open looks for others without necessarily touching the ball (and opening himself up to poor passes or mishandles as happens in the post.) But, since this isn't the way he's been told that an "elite offensive center" operates, he wants the ball dumped into him in the post in the half-court.
These are just two examples among many - others might include Harrison Barnes' quixotic quest to become a "dominant wing" and Mike Woodson's refusal for most of the season to play the small-ball lineup which brought the Knicks much of their success last year because "the East is big" and he wanted to match up with a traditional 4 and 5. But these errors are caused by outdated thinking, and this thinking is only reinforced by ex-players and coaches talking about a game which is recognizably similar but also demonstrably different from the environment in which they played, and these differences matter.