Lockout rust evident all over NBA
Things are not going well for the Phoenix Suns so far in the 2011-12 season.
Phoenix is 6-11, has lost three straight home games to teams (Cleveland, New Jersey and Toronto) with a combined 19-36 record.
You probably thought you'd never hear people talking about the Suns being unable to score consistently, but that's been the case so far. Phoenix's per game scoring average is down 12.3 points from last year's number.
Yet, roster-wise, nothing substantial really has changed from late last season. So what's the problem?
Blame the lockout.
It sounds like a lame and convenient excuse, but there really is something to the work stoppage effecting the quality of play around the league.
Because the Suns aren't alone. As of Thursday, 25 of the league's 30 teams have seen decreases in their average points per game from last season. Twenty-six squads have seen their shooting percentages drop from last year's figures.
The Sacramento Kings are currently shooting 39.6% from the floor on the year. If they stay under 40%, they'll be the first NBA team to be under that number in 52 years.
The Kings, by the way, managed just 60 points in a loss to Dallas earlier this month, and that's not even the worst single-game offensive output of the season. The Orlando Magic put up 56 points in a 31-point blowout loss to Boston on just three nights ago. And ten of those points came on Dwight Howard free throws.
To put that in perspective, Wilt Chamberlain had 23 games of 56 or more points -- in the 1961-62 season alone!
Seven other teams (Toronto, New Jersey, Detroit, Washington, Charlotte, Memphis and Dallas) have had games in which they've totaled 70 or fewer points.
There haven't been that many advances in defensive philosophy and no major rule changes in the NBA since last June, so it's got to be the lockout.
Don't believe me? There was a similar league-wide drop- off after the lockout of 1998-99. Twenty-four out of 23 out of 29 teams saw a decrease in their field goal shooting percentage. Three of the teams that saw an actual increase in their shooting had improvement of less than half a percentage point.
So the next time the NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires (there's an opt out after the 2016-17 season) and the league faces a work stoppage, don't worry about the splitting of basketball related income or rookie salary caps or missing games. As fans we should be worried about what the game will look like on the court when the players return.
Because as history has shown us, rust and the NBA is not a mix that is easy on the eyes.