Written By, Clifford Santa Monica


As far as I’m concerned, Andrew Bynum is the only true 5 (who’s any good) in the NBA now that Shaq has retired. As I’ve said on many other occasions, Dwight Howard and  Tim Duncan are actually deluxe power forwards whose feet and athleticism allow them to play the pivot–Tim even more so since his back-to-the-basket game is better than Dwight’s ever has been or ever will be. Both of them are closer to 6’10” than they are to seven feet and both defend the post quite well—Dwight better than anybody anywhere on most nights. But it’s Howard’s leaping ability more than anything else that allows him to intimidate on the inside the way he does.


As for Dwight’s observation that lack of flashiness is the reason centers aren’t more widely recognized for their work and likewise the reason why more tall youngsters aren’t encouraged to ply their trade in the low post, I disagree—at least in part. Dunking is quite flashy (Darryl Dawkins, Wilt, Artis Gilmore, Kareem, among others, all come to mind), and Dwight gets more flushes than any center in the league. Blocked shots are flashy too, and Dwight gets more of those than anybody including Mr. Ibaka, if I’m not mistaken. He mentions that guards shooting fadeaways grab headlines, but if my 7 footer takes a shot from beyond 18 feet (and it wasn’t a matter of the shot clock winding down) he’d find himself sitting next to me on the bench—as Andrew Bynum did last year following that ill-advised 3 pointer he heaved up when coach Brown was still here. In my universe, centers and power forwards don’t take shots from 25 feet. As a general rule I want my power forward playing within 15 feet of the basket and my center within 10 feet of the basket. My lead guard, my shooting guard and my small forward are all the perimeter weapons I need if they’re any good.


Last, regarding the contention that the reason for the switch to smaller players nowadays is the inability of bigger players to adjust to the demands of an up-tempo game, I say horse feces. Robert Parish, Bill Walton, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Moses Malone, Patrick Ewing and Artis Gilmore ALL got up and down the court more than well enough to accommodate the fast paced play favored by the coaches of their teams and every one of them was at least seven feet tall, except for Malone who was 6’10”, but still weighed 265 pounds. (Bill Walton was actually TALLER than former teammate Robert Parrish even though Walton was listed at 6’11 1\2” in all of the NBA program guides. But he insisted on understating his height because he thought people in this country think of 7 footers as freaks….) Today’s athletes (including the big men) are supposedly stronger and faster than their counterparts of generations ago. So I don’t want to hear any nonsense about them being unable to run up and down the court. It’s simply a matter of emphasis and preference. In basketball—as in life—achievements are circumscribed by expectations, and if a player’s mentors don’t DEMAND a particular behavior from their pupils they don’t figure to get it unless that individual is extraordinarily self motivated…


It may well take someone with Jabbar’s credentials to move the needle back to centers playing like CENTERS again—but my fear is that the reaction of today’s young centers will be close to Andrew Bynum’s—a player who chafed under the strict attention to detail Kareem demanded from him. So I look for the tendency of centers to play like small forwards (on offense) to continue into the foreseeable future—Cousins, Noah and Jefferson being sad, if not pathetic, cases in point in this context…

PS—Dr. Jekyll morphed into & Mr. Hyde once again yesterday after half time, didn’t he? (Phillip Rivers )

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