Welcome back, NBA

It's been a long time since I've been much of an NBA fan, but I might finally be coming back around thanks to this year's playoffs.

When I was a kid, I was in awe of Magic and Larry -- the skill, the rivalry, the pace of the game ... it all was so spectacular to me. But starting with the Detroit Bad Boys of the late '80s, the game began to change. It got slower. Defense was at a premium. And over the next 15 years, nowhere was that more evident than in the playoffs.

You'd hear it over and over again: "A team can fastbreak and score points in the regular season, but it better know how to slow it down and play defense in the postseason." And that's what we saw, year after year. While most people reveled in the MJ heyday, all I saw was the denegration of the game I loved into a parade of isolation sets full of pick-and-rolls and two-man post up/kick out. (It was about this time that I turned to college basketball -- the skill level might be lower, but at least the team concept is not lost.)

To the NBA's credit they recognized this, and the makeover might finally be complete.

Anyone who's watched the playoffs this year can't help but be compelled. As I write this, I'm watching the Suns play the Clippers in a game seven of the second round. THE CLIPPERS! This followed up a game seven between the two best teams in the Western Conference, which followed a game seven featuring some guy named LeBron trying to will his vastly undermanned team past the team the won the title two years ago.

The games have been exciting, and not just because they've been close. To my eyes, the product is better. It's not just that scoring is up; the changes the NBA has made to its rules has made it a more aesthetically pleasing game. Teamwork is at more of a premium, and the changes in defensive rules have allowed offenses to flow more freely.

The regular season is still WAY too long, and their economic model is busted, but kudos to NBA commish David Stern for having the foresight to see what needed to be done to continue to make the NBA on-floor product relevant in the post-MJ era and for recognizing that star power alone was not going to carry the league.

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