Q & A: Miami Heat TV Color Analyst John Crotty
This is the 13th in the Basketball Intelligence series of interviews with NBA Broadcasters. Previous subjects include Jared Greenberg, Jim Barnett, Sarah Kustok, Tim Legler, Marques Johsnon, Stephanie Ready, Gary Gerould, Mark Jones, Fran Fraschilla, Bob Rathbun, Matt Bullard and Ian Eagle Former HEAT point guard John Crotty is in his 15th full season as a member of the HEAT broadcast team and his second as the team’s television analyst. The NBA veteran once again is teaming with Eric Reid to analyze preseason, regular season and postseason action for all games carried on FOX Sports Sun. Crotty officially joined the HEAT broadcast team during the 2004-05 season, making his debut on radio with the HEAT’s January 1st contest against the Charlotte Bobcats. From 2005-11, he also joined FOX Sports Sun as a studio analyst for HEAT postseason games. Beginning with the 2011-12 season through the 2017-18 season, Crotty took an expanded role with FOX Sports Sun and served as a studio analyst for both regular season and postseason action in addition to continuing as the team’s radio analyst for home games. During his 11-year NBA career, Crotty played for seven different teams before retiring after the 2002-03 season. In addition to his stint with the HEAT, Crotty played for Utah, Cleveland, Portland, Seattle, Detroit and Denver. He appeared in 477 regular season games and averaged 4.0 points, 2.1 assists and 12.1 minutes while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, 38.4 percent from three-point range and 83.7 percent from the foul line. During his lone season with the HEAT in 1996-97, he averaged 4.8 points, 2.1 assists and 13.7 minutes while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from three-point range and 84.4 percent from the foul line in 48 games. He helped the HEAT earn its first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals appearing in 15 postseason contests. For his career he saw action in 36 postseason contests and averaged 2.0 points and 1.0 assists in 7.5 minutes. In addition to his broadcast duties, he continues to be involved in the community as a member of the Orange Bowl Committee. Crotty graduated from the University of Virginia in 1991 with a degree in history, and he and his wife, Kara, are the parents to two daughters, Cassie and Connor. They currently reside in Coral Gables.
RAY LeBOV: How did you start playing basketball?
JOHN CROTTY: I got into the game through my father who was very passionate about the game. He grew up in Bayonne, New Jersey and wound up getting an education through the Jesuits at Saint Peter's Prep and this led to his being the MVP of the New Jersey-New York All-Star game, which was prestigious back in his day in the mid-1950s. He wound up going to the University of North Carolina and playing for Frank McGuire. Dean Smith was the assistant there at the time. So my dad played at a high level and he was the one who inspired me.
RAY: How did that lead to your high school and college careers?
JOHN: When I was growing up, I was not just locked in on basketball. I loved all sports and we were encouraged to play whatever sport was in season. I enjoyed playing soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring and then, in the summer, a little bit of everything. Over the course of my childhood I grew up in two different small towns in the coastal Jersey Shore area; Bruce Springsteen country. So I was in the water every day surfing and swimming as well as playing sports whenever I could. My parents encouraged my brother, sister and me to be competitive. That is where I learned how to compete at no matter what it was that we were playing. We went out, we did our best, we worked hard at it and moved on; win, lose or draw from there. The biggest passion I developed was for basketball. It was something that fit me well and I was fortunate to go to a high school that was very prestigious and from a basketball perspective was always respected and ranked in the state. We made it to high national ranking by my senior year. My experience growing up and playing was very positive. It was obviously a lot of hard work and a struggle through some different things along the way in regards to competition and things of that nature but overall, it was a very positive experience.
RAY: When the time came for you to be recruited, how did you choose Virginia?
JOHN: I was blessed to have an incredibly great recruiting experience. I had all the major schools trying to track me down. I went to Five-Star Basketball Camp, which was a big feeder at the time. In the summer after my junior year in high school, I had an opportunity to really see where I stacked up by going against the best competition from around the country by going to Five Star. At that time over 200 college coaches would come each week to watch us play. I got to play against the best of the best and to measure myself and improve after my sophomore year through my junior year and then I played at a high enough level that I became a McDonald's All-American, which was incredibly exciting and gave me the opportunity again to be very highly recruited. The five schools that I took visits to were North Carolina where my dad went, Notre Dame which is like going to heaven from my community if you can get in there, being Irish Catholic, Stanford University just because of the incredible academic reputation and where basketball was coming on, Villanova which had just won a national championship under Rollie Massimino and the University of Virginia which was very appealing because of the ACC and because of the academic tradition there. And, of course, also because of Coach Terry Holland who I thought was an incredibly class act. Those were my final five schools and I had a fun time everywhere I went for a visit.
I ultimately committed to Virginia for a couple of reasons. First, which was important to my family, was because it had a great academic reputation and still continues to be one of the best public universities in the country and from an athletic standpoint, being it was an opportunity for me to come in and get playing time right away in a great conference and really have the keys to a program to where I could really play and lead a team from my second year on. I really enjoyed the environment there. You could get a true student-athlete type experience where you could play and still have good academic situation and have a lot of fun too. The coaching staff of Terry Holland and Dave Odom really drew me there too because they made it known that I could really help and impact the program.
RAY: You had an outstanding college career but you went undrafted. Why did that happen?
JOHN: I do not know. You need to ask some of the geniuses like Marty Blake who were evaluating everybody at the time. I know that it was the first year that the draft went from 10 rounds to two rounds. What was interesting to me as I became more aware of the process was it really did not make sense and it still does not make sense to get drafted even in today's NBA unless you get drafted in the first round. If you get taken in the first round, you are set up with a guaranteed contract for at least three or four years. Otherwise you are relegated to going where you get drafted in the second round and it could be a non-guaranteed contract and a situation that is really not a good fit for you. They picked you because they thought you were the next best player or athlete. I had to go in through free agency which was obviously a lot harder than getting picked in the first round.
RAY: How did you go from being undrafted to getting to the Jazz?
JOHN: I had to compete in various summer leagues and it was dog-eat-dog. You realize how many people are trying to realize their dream and get into the NBA. It is such an elite league and it has very few roster spots available, maybe 350 at that time. Today, there are probably another hundred guys in the NBA because the roster size has increased.. When I was playing it would be up to 15 but most teams did not even do that because they did not want to spend the money. So I went through the summer league process. I got an opportunity to try out with the Charlotte Hornets in the fall after my final year at UVA. I made it through the final day and I got cut from the Hornets which was very difficult and disappointing and the first time I had ever not made a team. I had to dig deep and go play in a minor league called the Global Basketball Association. I played for a team in Greenville South Carolina. I played there under NBA rules including the 24-second clock and the NBA three-point line for the first time in my life. I played nearly 100 games that year with that group and I improved. I worked at it; it was very difficult. It was a huge step down from playing in crowded arenas of 15 to 20,000 people. In the GBA we played in front of three to five hundred fans. I improved and so did my confidence to make it to the next new level. I stayed the course and had an opportunity to try out for the Jazz the following year and wound up making the team through competing in the summer league.
RAY: Tim Legler and Matt Bullard, previous interview subjects in this series, had somewhat similar experiences after outstanding college careers and going undrafte. The specifics are different but it took a lot of perseverance and resilience for each of you to make it . Their stories were quite interesting and there are some parallels in terms of what that meant for a broadcasting career.
What was it like playing with Stockton and Malone and for Jerry Sloan?
JOHN: It was great. I had never really thought about playing in the NBA. My dream was always to play in college, in the ACC. After I accomplished that I thought I would have to go to work. As things progressed, I really wanted to try to play professionally; so to be able to play in the NBA was fantastic. To go to the Jazz was really interesting as a young player because the team had a lot of older players who were really established. So I was going into a situation with grown men who had families and were pretty comfortable in the NBA and living where they lived. It was a bit of a shock that way but I always have tried to be a sponge and look and see what is going on around me and use what I learn to improve. Having leadership and guys who were strong contenders to model myself after, was a big help to me. John Stockton and Karl Malone's work ethic, professionalism, and competitiveness stand out. I already had a lot of those traits but I was able to see how they were able to do it at an NBA level which is not a 30 Game season, but an 82-game regular-season plus the playoffs. It is a long marathon situation where you cannot get too high or too low. You have to stay focused and block out a lot of the distractions that come along when you are a young player and have a few bucks in your pocket.They provided good examples of role models for me and I learned a lot, particularly in practice. I went against Stockton every single day for the first three years of my career and there is a lot to be said for that. It certainly was not glamorous but the information and the skills that I picked up from going against someone of that caliber every day were indispensable to my development
That was special. Jerry Sloan is one of my favorite all-time coaches. He was very different than me in many regards. He grew up in the Midwest with the farm background, youngest of ten or eleven kids. I loved his incredible work ethic and lack of ego. He was the most humble coach I ever played for and he was very fair. He was tough as nails and had a very high standard but he was very fair. That was important to me because I was not the highly touted NBA draft pick or the highest paid guy. Most coaches play those guys because they are worried about their jobs. He did not care. He would play whoever he thought was the best fit for the team. He was all about winning. He did not care how many points, assists or rebounds you got; if you could help the team win, that was what mattered to him, that was the bottom line. It was an amazing experience because of the way he was able to gain the respect of all the players whether you were a Hall of Fame caliber player or someone who was trying to make the team. He held everybody accountable. Everybody respected him and he respected them as a result. It was a very positive atmosphere to play in and I gained a lot from that. He was special to me. I went out this past June for his tribute following his passing. I saw a lot of former players and spent time out there for two days, reconnecting with guys. He impacted all of us.
RAY: You were there for three seasons the first time in Utah.
JOHN: Yes, three years the first time and then two more years later in my career.
RAY: What stands out at the other stops that you made?
JOHN: I played for 11 years on seven different teams. I have so many memories and different stories and not all of them are good. You are living your dream of playing but the reality is that it is not the most glamorous thing in the world when you are dealing with some people who have their own agenda and are trying to accomplish their own thing. There is the competition trying to get minutes and get an opportunity to elevate yourself and fit in with a group. There are so many different personalities that you are dealing with from a player and from a coaching standpoint.What resonated with me was that I had to go overseas after my fourth year. It was a tough experience but it helped make me a better player.I made the decision to go to Italy and play in the Italian League and the Euro League with a team in Bologna called Fortitudo Bologna. I played there briefly and got to be one of the featured players again and it gave me more confidence and gave me the ability to make plays and not play such a limited role. When I came back, I was a much better overall player, and it helped me step into a situation for the Miami Heat in 1996 to 1997. In Miami I was coached by Pat Riley and played with a strong Heat team that was led by Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. The Italian experience gave me an ability to fit in with that group and play very well. That launched the second half of my career. I enjoyed playing in Miami and Pat Riley was really the best motivator I have ever seen and played for. He did an incredible job of getting the most out of all the players. It has come full circle where now I am broadcasting here for this organization. Like all good organizations, you see when there is great stability at the top, how that translates to wins and positive things. I played in 96-97 there. It was a great year for me. I really did not want to leave but I wound up getting a multi-year deal; my first one after five one-year deals.
I got a three-year deal to play in Portland which I could not pass up, being a young married guy with one kid and another one on the way. It was a great fit there. I wound up going from Portland to Seattle and I was just reminiscing yesterday because Paul Westphal who coached me in Seattle just passed away from brain cancer. Paul was someone who instilled confidence in his players and really gave me an opportunity to play with and back up Gary Payton for the Supersonics. I had a lot of fun playing there with Gary, Vin Baker, Detlef Schrempf and that group. From there I went to Detroit and then back to Utah as an older wiser player and surprisingly nothing changed at all. Stockton and Malone were still there, Hornacek was there. They had made their finals run and we had an opportunity to reconnect before I finished in Denver for a short time. It is amazing how quick 11 years goes by. I still have good relationships with a lot of the players I played with and some of the coaches. I have been able to, as a broadcaster, see some of the former players who my contemporaries who are now coaching or broadcasting and I also get to see some of my former coaches who are older but still in the picture. That has been really fun
RAY: This is how old I am: I was in law school at USC when Paul Westphal was playing there.
JOHN: He was quite a player at USC too.
RAY: How did you transition to broadcasting from playing?
JOHN: The transition was not something that I had planned. All NBA players hope and pray that it is never going to end but it does. I prepared financially but I did not have a job to step into right away. I made a commitment to step away from the game briefly and get into real estate and be a commercial real estate broker. While I was focusing my energies in that direction, I also had reached out to the Heat to see if there were any broadcasting opportunities there since I was living in the Miami area. . Every summer while I was playing, I tried to dedicate at least two weeks to what I was going to do in the future and that meant doing an internship or two during the summer. The NBA and the Players Association have phenomenal programs for the players to take advantage of. It is just up to the players to do it. I did a stock exchange internship one summer for several weeks; along with a few other things. I did a broadcasting internship with the Heat. I broadcast some games with Eric Reid, who is the current television voice of the Heat. He was kind enough to come in on his days off in the summer and we voiced over games that had been played the year before. I thought "Wow, this is really cool. I like this. It is something I can do." As a former point guard, I see the game. I visualize it. I have a good feel for what is happening and what can be done better. That is how I played the game and how I prepared myself before I would play a team, both individually in regard to who I was guarding and team-wise, what strategies would work and having to make adjustments during the game; listening and playing for some great coaches over my career. It seemed like a pretty natural fit. Within a year or two of being down in Miami, something opened up on the radio side. They asked me if I wanted to come on board and of course I jumped on it and that was the start of it for me.
RAY: How do you compare doing radio and doing TV as an analyst?
JOHN: That is a good question, Ray. They are totally different. With radio you have a much shorter period of time to be able to articulate what you want to say. You have the time from the ball going in the basket and being inbounded until it is dribbled over half court and then you have to get out and get it back to the play-by-play guy who describes the action because radio listeners cannot see what' is transpiring. So you learn to make very quick succinct points and get in and get out and that was great training for me. If you make a mistake on radio, no one can see it anyway, so you have an opportunity to recover. It allowed me to see the game and think about it and try to teach; that was the part that I really enjoyed then and still do now, trying to get the casual listener to bite on a couple things that I can see and explain something that is maybe a complex strategy or situation and simplify it and make them aware of what that means, whether it is the terminology or trying to visualize what is going on the floor so they can understand why the player made the decision they did. So many people get caught up in the dunk or the amazing jump shot. I like those obviously, they are great. But I focus on "How did it happen? Why did it happen"? I love that part of it; the 'how' and the 'why' is really what my job is as a color analyst: describing, explaining and articulating why things occur.
RAY: That raises an interesting point that I have been asking consistently in these interviews. Analysts have to explain things to the casual fans without being over their heads while at the same time not being boring to people that have expertise. How great a challenge is that?
JOHN: I do not think about it that way. One of the harder things about our job is that we do not get much feedback.but overall. I try to mix it up where I will interject some very basic things and say, 'weak side means being on the other side of where the basketball is', I will throw something like that in every now and then and then get complex on occasion too. I try to hit a little bit of both. I understand what you are saying because there are some guys who get so technical that if you do not know the game, you are kind of scratching your head like, "What is this guy talking about?"
RAY: You want to appeal to the entire range of people.
RAY: One of the things that I admire about your work is that you do not have a compulsive need to comment on every play. You comment only when there is something that calls for an explanation or a description thereby avoiding one of the failings of a lot of analysts that gets them into trouble. If there is a pedestrian play where nothing of note happened, there is no requirement to speak, unless you are told by management that you have to say something about every play. That stands out among a number of positive things about the way you do a game. Is that something you are conscious of?
JOHN: You talked about difference between radio and TV. In radio, I felt a little more compelled to talk to try to describe different things. With TV, people are actually seeing what is happening on the floor and you have got to let the game breathe. You sometimes have to just let people watch the game. Something that I have learned from my colleague and friend Eric Reid, who is our play-by-play broadcaster, is that when the really big plays happen get out of the way. It is the play-by-play guy's job and role to call the play when the shot goes in at the last second and then just be quiet. You hear the crowd, you feel the energy and it is really intoxicating if you are watching the broadcast and then when the replay comes up, that is when I can kick in and I can talk. I do not have to be yelling and screaming. I do not think that is what people want to hear. It is not what I want to hear if I am watching a game. I try to pick my spots when I think I can really make a point. I have things that I go into a game watching for from a trend perspective. If something just happens, we have what is called a TalkBack button. I can push that button and while you would not hear it on the broadcast, I am talking to the guys in the truck to hold that play and get ready to replay it or pull it for a later film edit so that when we come out of different stoppages, either during the timeout or free-throw situation, I can get to some of those plays and maybe talk a little bit longer and make a point about something that is going on the floor. We do not have as much time as people think to talk. There is so much stuff going on, bills being paid through ads during timeouts, breaks and things of that nature. You have to be cognizant of the amount of time and to make sure that you are not talking over the action too much.
RAY: When I interviewed Jim Barnett, he pointed out that one of the advantages of doing the Dubs' games before they were good was that they had trouble selling sponsorships which gave him a lot more time to talk about what was happening. They did not have to do very many ads during breaks and free throws because so few were being purchased.
JOHN: That world has certainly changed for them.
RAY: One of the most important things for an analyst to focus on to do the job right is preparation. I often wonder about the aversion to doing any homework that some seem to have. They apparently are satisfied to just get by on the basis of having been a megastar as a player with no understanding or care that there is actual work involved. On the other hand, you take toe job seriously and your preparation is obvious and a great thing for the viewer. How do you prepare for a game?
JOHN: The preparation is hours long and our play-by-play guy Eric Reid also puts in an exceptional amount of time. I focus on the personnel. I focus on who is playing well and who is not, who is injured and who is not, what the trends are; if the teams are on a winning streak and why is that happening, if they are struggling.We glean a lot of information when we get to the arena. That is what has been tough with COVID. We have not had the personal access that we typically have, where we are rubbing up against coaches and players as sources of that information. There are guys that I played with that I can one-on-one talk with on the court or maybe an assistant coach where I can get some information as to what is going on. We have been relegated recently to just Zoom calls with each coach before the game. So it is less personal and a lot more controlled information. Those exchanges that I referenced are huge. They really can give you a lot of information. Again, I do not always use exactly what they say, but it helps me understand their thought process, particularly the coaches on why they are doing what they are doing, so that during the broadcast you can see why there is a certain rotation going on or maybe a matchup because that is what a coach is thinking or if a player shares something about what they are working on, you can see it during the course of the game. That is a big part of our job and unfortunately right now with what is going on with Covid, it has been really challenging to get some of those additional insights.
RAY: You mentioned your television partner Eric Reid and I know you worked with Mike Inglis on the radio. Chemistry in the booth is obviously important. If it is not there, it is not a good experience for the viewer. Your and your boothmates have done extremely well with that. Is there any kind of secret to that?
JOHN: No, I do not think there is. I am a people person. I enjoy people and developing relationships. To me, one of the greatest parts of living is just getting to know people and developing those things with them but it does not always work out. I have been very lucky. I have had great partners. Mike was the first guy I worked with on the radio side and he is a pro on that medium and we really made an effort. We spent time together off air too. I think that is always important with anything. Going out to eat, having a drink, just to get to know that person. It is two friends talking about the game versus super robotic and super formal type commentary. That comes pretty naturally to me, but the reality is I think we all work towards that and then organically it kind of grows and you will hear the humor come out and some of those subtleties of everyone's personality as the season and the relationship continues to develop.
RAY: Turning to the bubble, did you broadcast from there or from the studio or both?
JOHN: They wanted to limit everybody's access to the bubble. So there were no broadcasters other than the national broadcasters who are allowed in there and they still were under a strict protocol in regards to getting access to the players and coaches.
We did it from the arena. So we were at the arena, sitting at our same seats with a big monitor in front of us, broadcasting the game. It was a very different experience.
RAY: What was it like?
JOHN: Weird. It is broadcasting the game while you are watching TV. There is not the normal energy in the arena, similarly there was not the normal correspondence and discussion with the coaches and the players before and after each game. The exciting thing for us was that we had such a good team that was the talk of the Association. The Heat got better and better and wound up going to the finals. So there was a lot of natural excitement for our group and we really enjoyed the ride, but if your team was struggling in that environment, it was not easy.
RAY: I wonder what would have happened if Bam, Goran and Nunn were fully available.
JOHN: Injuries are a big part of the game and to get to the finals and have two of your best players miss multiple games was impactful in a major way. I do not know too many teams in the league that could have been as competitive as the Heat were with taking the Lakers to six with two starters out of the rotation, but they found a way to compete and that has just been this group's mantra.
RAY: We often hear people in every walk of basketball life talk about "Heat Culture". What does that mean to you?
JOHN: I have been blessed having played for the Heat and then being around the culture for another 14 or 15 years now. Basically it is an incredibly hard work ethic. It is a competitive fire and desire to be the best that you can be. There is an accountability; you do not come in as a star and expect to get treated as a star. You come in, you put the work in and you earn respect and you are held accountable. That is something that comes top down from management and Pat Riley from his time as being a coach and now being the president of the team and he has continued to go forward. Erik Spoelstra is carrying that forward as a coach. It is a special place to play because when you come here, people's individual egos are set aside. It is a great opportunity to be able to win and go for the ultimate prize. Some teams say it, this team really believes it and they try to live by those ideals. The second thing is that you are going to find personal growth and development here. There is a tremendous desire from the coaching staff and management to help players grow and develop. The stories are countless of guys who come in as second-round draft picks or are undrafted. Udonis Haslem who is arguably the greatest Heat leader of all time, is in his 18th season. He grew up in Miami and came in undrafted from the University of Florida, had to play overseas, came in undrafted and wound up becoming the all-time leader in rebounds for the Heat. It is about putting in the work and being mentally tough, professional and being held accountable. Players want that; they want to be the best they can be. If you have an oversized ego and if you do not want to work hard, it is not the place for you.
RAY: Can you give me an All-Star team of your teammates and an All-Star team of your opponents; starting fives if you want to structure it that way, from the time that you played in the NBA?
JOHN: Stockton and Malone were profound players in my life. I played with them for five years. They are Hall of Fame players and quality people. They never won a championship, but look at what they accomplished , the consistency of it and the desire to play in every game. When I see this whole load management thing now, I just laugh because Stockton never missed a game when I played there. There were three or four different times where I was all excited that I was going to get the nod to start because he had a slightly sprained ankle and he wound up marching right out there, Willis Reed-style.That was the toughness that those guys brought. Karl revolutionized the power forward position; he just punished people inside and then became a very good outside shooter, a guy who could pick and pop away from the basket as a power forward who was 255-260 pounds and so agile and mobile on top of being strong. Those two guys are special. Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway were two other guys that I enjoyed playing with when I was with the Heat. Tim loved to take and make the big shots. He had a lot of heart. Alonzo played so hard as a big guy and he was such a competitor and fighter and really helped take the team to another level . When I think about Seattle, I think about Gary Payton who I had an opportunity to back up.. I would take both him and Tim Hardaway as guards on that hypothetical team. In Detroit, I had the opportunity to play with Grant Hill and this was the year right before he broke his ankle in the playoffs. He was on his way to being one of the greatest of all time. He still made the Hall of Fame, but he was out of the game for three years trying to fight that injury and then came back and played for a long period of time in Orlando and Phoenix. He was a tremendous player and a very versatile for a guy his size, sort of a point forward. When I went back to Utah, I loved playing with Hornacek. I do not know if I would put him on my All-Star team, but he was just such a great teammate and such a tough hard-nosed player. I loved playing with him.
RAY: Dating myself again, Grant Hill's dad Calvin was a great football player and a college classmate of mine.
What would be your all opponent team from your years in playing in the league?
JOHN: If you do not mind, I would love to talk about the top five-point guards that I had to play against instead?
RAY: That would be fine.
JOHN: There were so many good point guards during that era. Kevin Johnson for the Phoenix Suns was always such a difficult guy to guard. He was so good off the dribble, had a great pull up game, could get to the basket and draw fouls. I always remember playing against him. Mark Price who was in Cleveland then was a bit ahead of his time as a three-point shooter who could stretch the floor, play that high pick and roll game. You had to go all the way out and guard him and when you did, he could beat you off the dribble and shoot the runner. He was an excellent passer. He was a guy I recall competing against; he was at such a high level. I played against Tim when he was in Golden State. We used to get into it. Gary Payton, I already mentioned. Terrell Brandon was an All-Star for a year or two and very underrated. He was a very talented player but a lot of people do not know him because he was playing in Cleveland. Those are the guys that are jumping out at me right off the bat.
RAY: During your playing and broadcasting careers, there have been a lot of changes in the game.
What have been the biggest changes in the game from when you started out to today?
JOHN: The changes are extraordinary. I would never have thought I would see them. There are two that jump out at me as the big game changers. First of all, the hand checking rules prohibiting reaching and grabbing on the perimeter. When I came in as a rookie, I remember having Derek Harper of the Mavericks playing me
He was such a strong, solid, defensive player and a great pro. I remember turning the corner, beating him with a right to left cross over and he put his right hand out and put it right on my right hip and I was like Fred Flintstone just running in place going nowhere because he was so strong and they let guys put their hands on you. It was very difficult to get an edge and there was a toughness and a strength component much more so than today. It is better for the game the way it is being played now, it is more free flowing and there is less contact where guys can chuck you and slow you down. All that has been cleaned up. As a smaller player who was well-rounded and skilled, I could beat people but people could reach, grab and neutralize some of your quickness and your ability to get around them because of strength and those abilities. Now, you would be on the free throw line, you would be shooting a lot more free throws. That is why we are seeing some of the smaller players taking over the game now and that leads me to the other change, the three-point shot. The analytics indicate that that makes more sense. I cannot remember exactly what the number is but if you are a 35% three-point shooter then that basically equates you to being a 44% two point shooter. So you should be shooting more threes because your chances are greater to make threes and score more points and help your team win. So that conversion and the amount of three-point shots being taken has really taken away the pivot player. The dominant center was always what everyone wanted whether it was Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal or Patrick Ewing. The way the game is being played now, they still would be phenomenal but it has somewhat gotten away from wanting that kind of player and now you want players that are skilled off the dribble, who can pull up and make plays and stretch the floor because you have more space to work with and you are making three-point shots instead of two.
RAY: Back to the change in the physicality; a lot of that stems from rule changes. People got very frustrated with the game back then in terms of how it was being played and also with players like Mark Jackson and Charles Barkley and their seemingly interminable back downs. We now have the five second rule and the hand checking rule; so there have been changes as a result of what you referenced. I wonder if it is ever going to reach a point where the spectrum has gone so far in the other direction that there will be a consideration of rule changes to combat that swing in some way.. Not to go back to the way it was but do you think that the pendulum could swing so far that there will be rule changes to restore balance?
JOHN: I do not. I think the fans are liking it, they are enjoying the three-point shot, the speed of the game and the scoring
RAY: No, it was clear then that was not going over with the viewers.
JOHN: I wish I could have played during today's era because I was not 7 feet 260 pounds and throwing people around. That era favored bigger and stronger guys. Today's game is much more skilled. If you can shoot and handle the basketball, that is a really fun way to play because you are playing uptempo and getting more chances to be able to move the ball and score. If you remember the way the rules were with the illegal defense, you had a lot of two-man game with the other three guys standing on the other side of the floor basically watching what was going on. It was a lot of isolation basketball and that is not happening now.