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December 06, 2001

When did the fast break die?
By Dan Patrick

Dan Patrick on what ails the NBA

The recent "Page Two" focus on got me thinking about the state of the NBA. I gave my answer to their question but now I have a question of my own.

Ray Allen
If Dan Patrick had his way, Ray Allen and other 3-point sharpshooters would have to settle for two points per field goal.

Rick Pitino leaving the Celtics is as good a reason as any to bring this up. Because the great Celtics teams of the 1960s used to do this all the time: run, run, run.

So here is my question: When did the fast break die?

What happened? There are a lot of reasons, I guess. I think a lot of it stems from the 3-point shot. I think the 3-point line is a big part of what is wrong with the NBA. There is always somebody at the 3-point line. So it's hard to break away during a transition when there is bound to be a defender about three steps from half court during every possession. You can't get out ahead of that guy. Do we even try to run the ball?

The game has changed of late but not for the better. It's a slower game with not as much scoring. Fast-break offense leads to a lot of easy baskets, but that doesn't seem to be a viable alternative for the points-challenged NBA. You'd think that some of these anemic offenses would look to the fast break to boost confidence, shooting percentage and, of course, scoring. Dr. Jack Ramsay prescribes just this approach for the new Celtics coach, Jim O'Brien.

Today's NBA features a lot of Greco-Roman defense and dunking. The three, after the NBA stole it from the ABA, was supposed to make NBA basketball more wide open and allow the little guy to still have an impact on the game.

But the result has been the creation of a two-man game, inside-outside, while three guys stand around. I think if you took away the three, you might bring back the fast break and open up the game a bit more as opposed to making it "transition points." When did we go from fast break to transition? I never understood that.

It's not like this style of play isn't popular with fans. We fell in love with the Sacramento Kings for one reason. They played the game differently than anyone else. They actually ran. When the Dallas Mavericks had Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn, we loved them because they ran.

They don't run in the NBA anymore. Watch a game on ESPN Classic and you would never know that it's the same game or the same league that you see today. It's more methodical now.

They don't run in the NBA anymore. Watch a game on ESPN Classic and you would never know that it's the same game or the same league that you see today. It's more methodical now.

Wait, dribble the ball for 10 seconds, wait for your big man to establish position, pass it inside, he'll pass it back, you either take the three or pass it back inside. Then he makes a move, foul called and he goes to the line and misses the free throws -- it's just not fun.

John Wooden was right when he said that if you want to watch pure basketball, watch the women's game. Maybe your first instinct is that you wouldn't be entertained by the women's game. Or that you wouldn't learn anything. But watch how they accomplish and carry out their mission each time down the floor. They touch the ball, they run, they pass -- it's hard to have a fast break when nobody's passing.

Whatever the reason, I wish some NBA team would bring back the fast break. It would certainly help them -- and if we're lucky it might catch on across the league.

Jim O'Brien, are you listening?

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