Gregg Popovich is one of the most highly respected coaches in the NBA.
He’s won five NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs and will likely end the 2018-19 season as the third-winningest coach in league history.
Popovich is also one of the most outspoken critics of the 3-point shot. He believes it has wrecked the game.
“There’s no basketball anymore, there’s no beauty in it. It’s pretty boring. But it is what it is and you need to work with it,” Popovich said of the current NBA.
“If you made 3s and the other team didn’t, you win. You don’t even look at the rebounds or the turnovers or how much transition D was involved. You don’t even care. That’s how much an impact the 3-point shot has, and it’s evidenced by how everybody plays.”
The impact of the 3-pointer at the high school level has been just as profound. Most boys and girls teams average well over 10 attempts per game beyond the arc. I’ve covered two games this season where more than 30 3-pointers were shot between the two teams.
“I understand where Coach Popovich is coming from, but you have to understand that the game has evolved from the 80s and 90s,” Elkhorn High boys coach Josh Skatrud said. “You don’t see a lot of 90-85 games in the NBA like you used to back then, and I think that’s the way the fans want it.
“I know we discourage our kids from shooting the mid-range jumper, because it’s just not as efficient as the 3 or shots around the rim. But that doesn’t mean that rebounding or playing defense aren’t as important, as well. Regardless of the 3, you have to do both of those things to be successful.”
The NBA adopted the 3-point shot in 1979.
The new concept coincided with the rookie seasons of future Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The 3-point shot was implemented by the NCAA in 1986 and by the National High School Federation in 1987.
“It has certainly changed the game,” Janesville Craig boys coach Ben McCormick said of the 3. “Scoring is up, the driving lanes have opened up because of the constant threat of somebody shooting a 3 and it’s easier to come back on a team.
“And now you see more and more kids shooting the 3s regardless of how big they are. It’s certainly another way for a kid to expand his or her game if they can become a consistent 3-point shooter.”
The 3-point shot is certainly here to stay, even if it annoys one of the NBA’s all-time greatest coaches.
Here’s a look at three upcoming area games, including a key early-season Southern Lakes tussle between the Elkhorn and Westosha Central boys:
Whitewater (4-1, 4-0) at East Troy (4-1, 4-0), girls, Rock Valley, 7:15 p.m., today, East Troy High School—The winner takes over sole possession of first place in the Rock. Both teams have won four straight after losing their nonconference season-openers.
East Troy’s success on the volleyball court is carrying over to the basketball court. The Trojans won the WIAA Division 3 state title.
Grace Lomen has been the catalyst thus far East Troy. The freshman is averaging 17.0 points per game.
A balanced attack has spearheaded the Whippets. Abby Grosinske, Cassidy Laue and Kacie Carollo are all averaging double figures scoring.
Whitewater is allowing only 40.5 points per game under first-year coach Kristen Lippens.
Best guess: Whitewater 52, East Troy 45
Westosha Central (1-0, 0-0) at Elkhorn (3-0, 0-0), boys, Southern Lakes, 7:15 p.m., Friday, Elkhorn High School—The Elks look to enact a little revenge on the Falcons after a 46-41 sectional semifinal loss ended their season a year ago.
Jaeden Zackery was first-team all-Southern Lakes, and Dylan Anderson was second team a year ago for the Falcons. Those two combined for 41 points in a season-opening win over Kenosha Bradford.
Elkhorn followed up its season-opening victory over Verona with impressive wins over Lakeside Lutheran and Monroe.
The Elks, led by twin brothers Luke and Vince Umnus, have impressed in their three wins.
“This is definitely a game where we’re looking for a little payback,” Skatrud said. “But it’s also a chance for us to show that we belong in the conversation as one of the conference’s best teams.
“Westosha is a very good team. It’s still pretty early in the season, but this will be a good test for us.”
Best guess: Elkhorn 71, Westosha 63
Sun Prairie (2-1, 2-1) at Janesville Craig (4-0, 3-0), boys, Big Eight, 7:15 p.m., Friday, Craig High—The defending conference-champion Cardinals will try and knock the Cougars out of first place.
Sun Prairie is a shell of its former self. Junior and top-10 recruit Jalen Johnson transferred to Glendale Nicolet before the start of the school year, and three other expected starters have not played yet this season.
Senior Brock Voigt is averaging 22.7 points per game for the Cardinals.
“I know they’ve been missing a few guys, and I’m not sure if any or all of them will play against us, but they’re still a very formidable team,” McCormick said.
“We’ve got to really work hard on the boards and not give up those second and third opportunities on the defensive end.”
Craig senior guards Aaron Leverson and Jack Huml are averaging a combined 36 points per game. Huml was injured in the win against Verona on Tuesday, and his status is uncertain.
Best guess: Craig 64, Sun Prairie 59