(Sorry if this post seems scattered – my mind is racing about this!)
Now that I’m volunteering with the Wollongong Hawks, I almost don’t want to write this post. The team is great and I love working with them, but while watching the games the past few weeks, I noticed something that I had to speak up about: Americans don’t fit in the NBL.
I know this is a very general statement and there are some Americans who do make great NBL players, but there are so many differences that it makes it hard.
What really drove this point home for me was watching Adris Deleon, the Wollongong Hawks point guard, play this past Friday. Yes, I am aware that he was born in the Dominican Republic, but he was raised in the US and that’s where he learned to play basketball, therefore, I’d consider him a American basketball player, at least in terms of style, and that’s what I’m talking about.
Americans Play Faster
Deleon is a good player, yes. But his playing style doesn’t suit his team because he’s playing as though he’s in the NBA, and he’s not. No two ways about it, the NBA is better quality than the NBL (they have about $10 katrillion more than the NBL, so they better be). The NBA is known for being fast and crazy and chock full of showboats (Dwight Howard ring any bells?). Even teams that are known for their calculated, organized style of play, like the Boston Celtics circa 2008, or teams that are at the bottom of the laddder still rack up the three point shots and fast breaks on a good night. They can do that, in part, because of their abilities. The NBL can’t do things like that – they’re still playing basketball in it’s most basic form.
Watching Deleon on Friday was… hard. He’s the point guard which means he’s shorter than most of the other guys on the court and faster. That’s just how basketball is, but it was magnified because he was playing like an American. He was pretty much running circles around the Perth Wildcats, which was great, but it also looked like his teammates were confused, which was not so great. I don’t think he’s acknowledging where he is. DELEON: YOU ARE IN THE NBL NOT THE NBA. PLAY ACCORDINGLY.
While there’s nothing wrong with the playing style in the NBL and there are so, so many talented NBL players, they point I’m trying to make is that the leagues are different. The men play differently. You only need to look at the scores of an NBL game to see the difference. A low scoring game in the NBA has points in the 80s – in the NBL, that’s a high scoring game (the highest score from a team so far this season is 97 points).
Americans Are Selfish
The other big difference is that basketball is still a team sport in Australia (just like in Europe). For better or worse, basketball in the US is more of an individual sport now. Yea, you play as a team, but most guys are more concerned about making themselves look good. That’s where that showboating comes in. Everyone wants to stand out. Every good player does make the sacrifice and hands the ball off to their teammate but not before they show what they can do. For Deleon, it was his constant between legs cross over. I saw the shot clock run out a couple times because he wasted time screwing around. Maybe he thinks that his teammates are just as fast as he is?
Americans Are… Americans
And that’s why American basketball players don’t really make a good fit. As much as I love the US and the NBA (and I LOVE the NBA) I can’t say that we like conforming. We like to think that our way is the best way and whether or not that’s true doesn’t matter – if Americans are going to succeed in the NBL then they need to learn to play with Australian players. They need to stop thinking they are in the NBA. They need to adjust their playing style. They might get here quickly, but without adapting they’re going to go just as fast.
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(Photo Credit: Herald Sun)