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For the last two decades, just about every team that has won the NBA Finals has been the league's best defensive team. And on that team there has been a player - or players - considered among the best defenders at his position.Alridge, I hope, is right. I'm sorry for those in Detroit and San Antonio who have worked so hard to perfect their winning models. They have been the class of the league and deservedly so. But as a basketball fan, I'm not sorry at all to see these changes. Watching NBA basketball, right now, is the most fun it has been for me in the last 15 years. These are changes for the better.
The '80s Lakers had Michael Cooper. The Celtics had Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson. The Pistons had Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars. The Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen - and, in their second Threepeat, Rodman. The Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwon. The Spurs had David Robinson and have Bruce Bowen. And the new-millennium Lakers had Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox.
Which is why this season, in so many ways, represents a sea change in the NBA.
The defending champion Spurs have already been shown the door. And the defending Eastern Division champs, the Pistons, are about to join them. After a half-dozen years in which either Detroit or San Antonio set the standard for defense, and won four championships between them, both dropped noticeably this season. And both have been sliced up by superior offenses in the playoffs.
Which is by design.
It's a natural progression from a series of rule changes over the last few years designed to liberate offenses, combined with an influx of quicksilver guards and forwards capable of handling the ball and finishing at the basket. It has made players like Miami's Dwyane Wade even more unstoppable. And it's keeping more fans in front of their televisions, if the increased ratings for this postseason are any indication.
People love offense. And they're getting it, while defensive-oriented teams look to be going the way of the stegosaurus.