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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New and Artless NBA

HOUSTON, Texas -- We have seen the future of professional basketball, and it works. Hard. Its symbol is the bruise. The explorers are the New York Knickerbockers and the Houston Rockets, rediscovering that they could reach the championship round in a dugout canoe. When push comes to shove, as it surely does, they have proved that hard work and teamwork can overcome talent. They make the sports clich? come true. This is more resignation and less uplift. Until the next Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson comes along, this is where the National Basketball Association is going -- hard foul by hard foul. This is expansion basketball. To paraphrase Pat Riley, we are not going to see artistry unless they change the rules. He was not making a value judgment; his Knicks thrived on the system. But coaches and owners mimic success, and they have seen that in a time of talent stretched thin, muscle overcomes. It is hard to soar like an eagle when you are being held by a turkey. The custom now says the defense can clutch at the offensive player -- but only with one hand; two hands is a foul. A championship is a championship. It means you beat everybody who came to play. So it is unfair to say this is the least-memorable championship team since forever, but true. Not the games, but the teams. Winning a championship is always worth a good substantial yell. But if you think artistry is nice to watch, draw your own conclusion. Both the Rockets and the Knicks were distinguished for the things they could not do. Expansion basketball, like baseball, is populated by players who can do one thing well. They do not have talent across the board. Artistry is developing God-given talent. When talent was deep, the defense could not overload on the likes of Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon because somebody else would shoot the cord out of the net.