James Worthy on state of NBA: "All they do is practice threes … get tattoos and tweet"


If you've been watching the NBA playoffs, you probably haven't loved what you've seen. It's been two weeks since a game was decided by five points or fewer. Many are over before the fourth quarter. Others by halftime. Theories vary as to why, but one explanation is the NBA's obsession with the three-pointer.

The Mavs missed 26 more threes than they made in Game 1 of the WCF and lost by 25. In Game 2 of the ECF the next night, the Heat missed 14 more threes than they made and lost by 25. (The Heat went 7-45 (!!) in Game 5 on Wednesday and lost by 13.) Everyone is jacking up threes these days; point differentials balloon when they're only falling for one team.

During an interview Wednesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show, Lakers legend and Hall of Famer James Worthy, a three-time NBA champ, was asked what he thinks of today's game and its heavy reliance on the three. And Worthy said the NBA has been diminished by "the rush of guys not going to college" -- or at least not going for more than a year.

"I mean, Kareem had four years with John Wooden, Michael Jordan and I had three years with Dean Smith, Isiah (Thomas) had some years with Bobby Knight. So you learned the fundamentals," Worthy said. "Not only that, you learned how to live. You learned how to balance your freaking checkbook in college, there’s a lot of things. When you don’t get that, guys are coming to the NBA who are not fundamentally sound. All they do is practice threes, lift weights, get tattoos, tweet and go on social media. That’s it.

"So you don’t have that sound player; you have an athletic player. And that’s what’s happening to the game. It’s a lot of ISO and looking for mismatches. Bill Russell told me one time, they had five options off of one play. You don’t see that anymore."

Apparently you don't see close games either.

Worthy was also asked what's wrong with his former team after LeBron James and the high-priced Lakers missed the playoffs two years removed from winning it all.

"The Lakers, I think they have refused to build over the years," Worthy said. "We’ve had some good players: (Brandon) Ingram, (Julius) Randle, (Lonzo) Ball. We have tried to win quickly. In Kobe’s last few years, we brought in (Steve) Nash who was a little bit older, Dwight Howard came in with a back injury. We traded away draft picks to try to win immediately and I think they’re going to have really think about how they need to build.

"You look at Memphis, you look at the way Boston is playing right now, you look at the way Milwaukee has built a team over time. We need to create players that have cohesiveness. We had it a couple years ago and we traded it all away to try to win, to try to match what Brooklyn was doing and what other teams were doing with their Big Three players. I think that’s going to go away. That’s an illusion, having the Big Three. You see what happened in Brooklyn, you see what happened with the Lakers. Even though everyone experienced injuries, you still should be playing better and you should definitely be in the playoffs. So the Lakers -- it’s embarrassing and it’s unacceptable."

Other highlights from Worthy's interview on 97.1 The Ticket:

On Bill Laimbeer's phantom foul on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals: "He got him on the knee! You have to understand the trickery. It looked clean from up top, but he had that big belly just bumping up against Kareem and it threw him off balance. Everybody knew that. I have the same argument with Isiah and John Salley: ‘Just give it up, guys! It was a foul.’"

On how much he hated playing the Pistons: "I didn’t hate playing Detroit. For me, after playing the Celtics in the '80s I was pretty much ready for anybody. Much respect to Chuck Daly and the teams he put together there, but I didn’t hate playing against them. It was fun. They called themselves the Bad Boys and we were just the Lakers who had pretty much dominated the 80’s, so it was just work as usual for us."

On the Pistons sweeping the Lakers in the 1989 Finals: "We were without players, of course. Kareem was older, Magic was hurt, Byron (Scott) was hurt, I still dropped 40 on you guys in that last game. You should have won. And hey, I’ll give you this, too: I’m not saying the outcome would have been different, but remember Isiah was hurt in ’88. Remember he sprained his ankle. But yeah, we always gave Detroit credit. They were a little bit better than the Celtics after ’85, they were. They were younger, better defenders and yeah, that ’89 team … they were the better team. I don’t mind saying that."

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