When I coached my son’s and daughter’s basketball teams, I often started the season with a race.
I took my best dribbler and placed her near one basket on the left side of the court. Then I took three or four of her teammates and lined them along the length of the right side of the court. The last player in the line stood under the basket at the opposite end of the court.
I handed a ball to the dribbler and the first player in the line and shouted “go.” The dribbler took off dribbling as fast as he could. The other players passed the ball downcourt. Those players scored before my best dribbler reached half court.
Then I turned to my players and asked, “What have we learned here?” Someone always got it. “It’s better to pass the ball than to dribble it.”
I have been thinking about that simple race as I follow the series in the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
The Warriors, who have won three of the past four NBA titles, are a great passing team. They average about 29 assists (passes that lead to a basket) a game during the playoffs and regular season. That is tops in the NBA.
The Rockets, on the other hand, do not pass the ball as much as the Warriors. They often let star guard James Harden dribble the ball and try to score by driving to the basket or stepping back to shoot a three-pointer.
The Rockets have averaged around 18 assists a game during the playoffs. That’s the fewest of the 16 playoff teams.
Harden is amazing. He averaged more than 36 points a game during the 2018-2019 regular season. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley has called Harden “the best offensive player I have ever seen.” And that is saying something because Barkley played against Michael Jordan.
But it’s hard to win an NBA championship depending so much on a single player. Jordan did not win his six NBA championships for the Chicago Bulls by himself. He always had forward Scottie Pippen on those teams. Pippen was a terrific scorer, defender — and passer.
It was the same with LeBron James’s three championship teams. He had help from such all-star performers as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Kyrie Irving.
So who will win the Warriors-Rockets series? After Monday night’s game, the Warriors were tied with the Rockets two games apiece. (Check last night’s late score on washingtonpost.com.)
I think the Warriors will win the series and repeat as NBA champions. After all, everyone knows: It’s better to pass the ball than to dribble it.