Steve Kerr makes valid point on NBA legislating defense out of game

On Christmas Day, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said bah humbug about the NBA rules.Steve Kerr

More specifically, Kerr was speaking to reporters after the Warriors’ 120-114 loss to the Nuggets, suggesting that the league is solely rewarding offensive players and legislating out defense at the expense of the game.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic shot 18 free throws, prompting Kerr to rail against the rules.

“I have a problem with the way we are legislating defense out of the game,” he said. “We’re just enabling players to BS their way to the foul line. If I were a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half. It was disgusting.”

I have to agree with Kerr here on the idea that the NBA has legislated against defense. The NBA wants the games to resemble NBA2K as much as possible, creates rules that are hugely beneficial to the offense. It wants incredibly high-scoring games and an insane amount of fairly unchallenged 3-point attempts.

It believes this is what its younger audience demands and will pay for (the important part of all this). This is why scoring records are through the roof. The league will do what it believes will generate the most money, even if the quality of basketball suffers. One GM told me months ago he believes the league “hates the idea of lockdown defenders.”

I for one think the league has become less appealing to the casual fan and has lost its charm. That probably has more to do with the rules than analytics or officiating. Analytics are based on what the league allows. Bring back hand-checking, for instance, and the data would change. Today, the league has a lot less personality and uniqueness, because everyone plays the same style. Pick, roll, three, dunk, repeat. That’s the best system based on the rules.

We watch the NBA because it’s the product that’s offered — not necessarily because it’s a great product. Or at least not the product that would appeal to fans the absolute most.

The NBA also sets the standard for how basketball is played around the world and at lower levels. While it barely acknowledges the old ABA, that’s basically what it has become — incredibly gimmicky and screaming for people to notice. That’s fine, but it spends way more money on salaries (and what feels like 73 assistant coaches and an inordinate amount of medical personnel per team) than nearly any other league — and doesn’t always have the income to cover it all.

What the NBA desperately needs is a strong basketball voice in the league office to advise the commissioner and steer it back toward a real sport and less of a WWE-style scripted novelty act.

I love the NBA and think there are things better about it today than when I was a kid. But the pendulum has swung way too far to favor offense.

Defense has always been a huge part of the sport and the NBA isn’t going to lose money by bringing it back. And I’m not just talking about blocking shots. Let teams/players be physical both off and on the ball on the perimeter and in the key. Let defenders truly guard the 3-point line without the silly close-out-foul rule. Get rid of the awful “freedom of movement” rule. Stop rewarding offensive flopping. Stop calling every hard foul a “flagrant.” It’s just silly.

More points and more shattered records don’t interest fans as much as it makes them suspicious. Shooters and scorers in today’s NBA are amazing. They don’t need the league legislating rules to help them prove it.

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