Should the “rip” move be legal?

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Kevin Durant may be the nicest superstar in the NBA, and he certainly has the most squeaky-clean public image. He doesn’t say the wrong things, he’s a quiet assassin on the court, he’s young, he’s exciting to watch, and he plays for a small-market team with great fans.

In fact, the only time you’ll ever see a casual fan actually get mad at Kevin Durant is when he uses his “rip” move, the sneakiest offensive maneuver in the game. When Durant has the ball in the triple-threat position, he likes to bring it down low and dare the opposing defender to stick their hand out instead of giving him space. If the defender takes the bait, Durant swings his arms up in a quick modified shooting motion, and more often than not is awarded with three free throws.

There’s no doubt that the rip move is a key part of Durant’s game. Durant averages 3.7 attempts at the rim per game (data courtesy of HoopData.com) and 8.7 free throws per game, which means he averages 2.35 free throws for every attempt at the rim. Let’s look at that in comparison to other high-volume perimeter scorers:

– LeBron James: 1.48 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Dwyane Wade: 1.25 free throws per attempt at the rim

-Derrick Rose: 1.03 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Russell Westbrook: 1.13 free throws per attempt at the rim

– Kobe Bryant: 2.00 free throws per attempt at the rim

As you can see, Durant is getting fouled on jump shots a LOT more than most high-volume perimeter scorers. Some of that can be explained by the fact that Durant is an extremely dangerous jump shooter — there’s a reason why Kobe Bryant also has a very high FTA/shot at the rim ratio. Still, Durant’s ratio is significantly higher than Kobe’s, and Kobe’s had nearly an extra decade to develop tricks to fool defenders.

So Durant’s “rip” move is clearly effective. But is it underhanded? Daily Thunder’s Royce Young chimes in:

Last night against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with [the rip move]. One in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer on Dorell Wright and then a big one in overtime on David Lee which gave KD three shots and put OKC up one with a minute left.

So as you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move. He told the AP: “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “If the player’s going to bait you into a foul—and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it—but … who has the right to the space? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”

Who has the right to space? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo gets up super tight on Monta Ellis — like really tight, touching even — and Ellis puts the ball on the floor and drives hard around him and Thabo can’t move his feet fast enough, thus picking up a blocking foul, is Keith Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul? I mean, who has the right to the space? Ellis created the contact, Thabo was just playing defense. Right?

Young certainly has a point — players exploiting the rules to draw fouls is certainly not new, and it’s commonplace in many situations. Just like all professional athletes, basketball players do all they can to get any sort of advantage within the official rules. However, there is a difference between the “rip” move and drawing a foul off of a pump fake or a blocking charge — those defenders are, in theory, moving.

Everyone agrees that a defender who creates contact by moving into an offensive player attempting to score should be a foul. We’ve also come to accept that an offensive player who tricks a defensive player into creating contact — think Kobe Bryant up-faking and jumping straight up into a defender flying at him, Dwayne Wade getting a help defender to lurch towards the rim before jumping into his chest, or Chauncey Billups selling contact with a perimeter defender who didn’t get above the screen quickly enough.

The rip move, however, is an offensive player creating contact with a stationary defender that put himself in what is perhaps a bad position. Maybe that’s a small distinction, but it seems to me that it’s what makes the “rip” move just a little bit different than the rule exploits we’re already familiar with.

Still, one thing is for certain: Durant is going to use that rip move, and use it well, until the refs stop calling it, so defenders should be careful where they put their arms while guarding Durant.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.