Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/31/12
MINNEAPOLIS Running out of options, his teammates covered, Ricky Rubio sets his feet for a long jump shot, relatively unguarded and with time to spare. But from the moment the ball leaves his hands, there's something off about its arc, and the closer it gets to the basket, the more wrong it seems. There's no sound, no ding of rubber hitting metal, no swoosh of friction between net and ball. It's nowhere near the basket, and there's just the hollow bounce of an air ball hitting hardwood. Situations like that have played out over and over this season, and Rubio is just one perpetrator of the ugly, misdirected shot. It's happened all over the league, to Nikola Pekovic and Martell Webster, to Washington's Jan Vesely on his first-ever free throw attempt and to Jimmer Fredette on a last-second three-pointer that would have given his Sacramento Kings a win. It's even happened to Kobe Bryant, the same Kobe Bryant who scored more than 40 points in three straight games this season. No one is immune. The 2011-12 NBA season has so far been a vortex of ugly wins and air balls, with struggling offenses being forced to concede that an ugly shot is better than no shot at all. Poor shooting and low scores are the most visible consequence of the 161-day lockout, and teams are still struggling to find their offensive identities. "I'm sure that it's better now than it was when we started," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was god-awful when we started. It was hard to watch a game. And it'll continue to get better. But I think it's getting to the point now where it's doable and watchable." Not one to mince words, the four-time NBA champion coach might have described this season better than any of his more tight-lipped colleagues. It's been ugly, and there's not much else to say. Last season, the league averaged 45.9 percent field goal shooting and 99.6 points per game. In 2011-12, those numbers are down to 44.3 percent from the field and 94.4 points. Teams are shooting at a rate 3.5 percent worse than they were last year, and scoring is down by 5.2 percent. Those statistics are discouraging to coaches and players alike, but they're not far from the precedent that history sets. After the 1998-99 lockout, scoring and shooting suffered similarly. Field goal shooting was 2.9 percent worse in 1999 than it was the season before, and scoring fell by 4.2 percent. And though the drop off in scoring so far this season, at 5.2 percent, seems worse, teams still have time to settle into rhythms and improve those numbers. Poor shooting has especially plagued the Timberwolves so far this season. They're averaging 96.6 points per game, down from 101.1 last season. That's a 4.5 percent decrease, better than the league average, but Monday night's 120-point game in Houston which was by far an exception rather than the norm this year raised the team's average points by 1.2. They're also shooting worse from the field, at 43.4 percent to last season's 44.1 percent, and they're attempting fewer field goals per game, 80.3, than last year, when they were second in the NBA with 85.5 per game. Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman said that he thinks much of any team's offensive struggles come from coaches' efforts to bring often out of shape and unfamiliar teams up to speed as quickly as possible without confusing them. "Coaches are the same," Adelman said. "They're going to simplify things, and they're going to try to be sure they get good opportunities... It's got to be that they're just not used to what they're doing." There's so much more to a shot than just getting the ball into the basket. Teams need to find rhythms, to develop their passing game and let shooters take good shots, rather than forced ones. That's where an almost nonexistent training camp really hurts a teamwithout the hours logged in the gym together, players can't quite get to the spots they need to hit those flawless shots. "I think it's probably the repetition and just being in the gym," Wes Johnson said. "In the lockout, if it hadn't been there we'd have been together a lot sooner, and the team would have gotten a different flow with each other." Shots are the most visible and memorable elements of a game. They're what make people want to watch, or in the case of this season, turn away. Scoring and shooting troubles are a reality, but there are ways to work around them, to acknowledge and counteract them. For instance, on Sunday against the Lakers, the Timberwolves shot just 38.5 percent to the Laker's 50.6 percent but had a chance to win in the game's final seconds. "We did a lot of good things," Adelman said after Sunday's game. "We had a lot of second chance points, fast break points, but we couldn't make a shot." Second-chance points and offensive rebounds are bad shooting's best anecdotes, but they do nothing for the game from a cosmetic standpoint. They often come in the form of bobbled layups and sloppy corrections, just more trappings of this season's ugly basketball, and they do nothing to counteract the impression that NBA players have seemingly lost their shooting skills. But as Popovich said, shooting should improve, and Monday's 120-108 win over Houston provided an example of just how fun this Timberwolves team can be to watch. Basketball should again become bearable, even enjoyable. And when things look really bad, just switch over to a college game. Last Sunday, No. 10 Georgetown scored just 22 points in the first half of its game, and replays of that offensive fiasco should make the NBA look like a precision-shooting machine. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Rockets have 'serious chance' at landing Chris Paul

MotoGP qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix saw three frightening crashes Saturday

Report: Knicks attempted to move Joakim Noah with Kristaps Porzingis

Hornets GM mistakenly introduces Dwayne Bacon as Dwyane Wade

Three A's players knock first MLB homers in the same game

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cuban-American businessman emerges as potential Marlins buyer

Charles Oakley: Kristaps Porzingis was ‘wrong’ to skip exit meeting

Ranking the toughest divisions in the NFL

Sixers already looking to extend Joel Embiid

WATCH: Klay Thompson fails miserably attempting a 360 dunk

Jays closer Roberto Osuna says he’s dealing with anxiety

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

Box Score 6/23: Philly continues to trust the process

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Gary Payton Award for best trash talk of the year

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Kicking it: David Villa isn't interested in a 'retirement tour'

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'NBA Draft going back to school?' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker