Can't wait to see basketball artistry again

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMay 10, 2009 

John Clay

You might be excited about Friday's happy-dance news that Patrick Patterson is returning for another year of Kentucky basketball.

Your pulse might be pumping in anticipation of seeing DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe, Jon Hood and Darnell Dodson in the flesh.

You might be obsessed with the John Wall saga.

You might be excited about all things John Calipari.

Come October 15, I'll be excited just to see some real-live, honest-to-goodness basketball.

Real basketball.

Finally.

No more of this football on the hardwood, of "out-toughing" your opponents, of trying to be the more physical team, of banging on the boards, of intimidating your opponents. That's not basketball.

Basketball is artistry and flair and precision. Basketball is a combination of stirring individual expression and breathtaking teamwork. In its purest form, real, true basketball is a joy to behold, unlike that of any other sport.

That's what I'm looking forward to most when the Coach Cal Era gets under way this fall, the hope, the belief that this dribble-drive motion offense is a rejection of grind basketball in favor of fun basketball.

And I have to believe that is one of the reasons why — combined with Calipari's impeccable salesmanship — the new Kentucky coach has been able to assemble such a jaw-dropping array of first-year talent. And coax UK's best returning player into actually returning.

Kids want to play in the dribble-drive offense. Why else would Bledsoe, the Alabama prep point guard, sign with Kentucky knowing full well that the Cats are still in the hunt for the considerable talents displayed by Wall at the same position.

Calipari's offense showcases skills. It allows for individual play in a team concept. Ask Derrick Rose, who took Memphis to the NCAA title game last year and was NBA Rookie of the Year this season. Ask Tyreke Evans.

Ask Chris Douglas-Roberts. Actually, we in the media asked CDR exactly that at the 2008 Final Four. His love of the dribble-drive came down to: It's fun to play.

"If you can't play, you can't play in this offense," Calipari has said numerous times since taking the Kentucky job. "I can't hide you in this offense."

Good players don't want to be hidden. They want a situation in which they will thrive. They want to play a game that will expand their game, that will be more like the game they really want to play — the NBA game.

Surely that's part of the explanation for Patterson's return. He's not ready to play in the NBA now. He will be a year from now.

At present, the 6-foot-9 junior-to-be would have been a late first-round pick, thanks to a two-year career planted in the post. Because of roster limitations, Patterson has been required to play as close to the basket as possible. That's all NBA scouts have seen.

Next year, they'll see more. Calipari has said that, in his offense, Patterson will be out on the floor more. He'll have to put the ball on the floor. He'll have to drive. He'll have to develop a middle-range jumper. He'll have to do all the things NBA types want to see him do.

And he won't be doing it all on his own. There will be Cousins, and Orton, and Perry Stevenson, and Matt Pilgrim, and Dodson, and Ramon Harris, and a host of others to provide frontcourt help.

No doubt Patterson is excited about that.

I'm excited about something else.

A return to honest-to-goodness basketball.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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