It changed in the fall of 2004. Up to that point a defender out on the perimeter could put his hand on the guy he was guarding — “hand check” him” — and with that the league allowed defenders to be more physical, to grab a little. Go back and watch highlights of Gary Payton on defense, you’ll see.
With the start of the 2004-05 season, defenders couldn’t touch a guy on the perimeter, couldn’t bump him at all — no real contact is allowed. It changed the game and ushered in an era of the fast, slashing guards and even bigger players. It’s part of the small-ball trend. If you’re quick on the perimeter now, you’re nearly impossible to guard one-on-one, no matter how good the defender. Tony Parker couldn’t guard Tony Parker under these rules.
Kobe Bryant doesn’t like them.
Sounding decidedly old-school (because he is) in a media availability session Monday, Bryant was asked about the biggest change in the NBA since he entered it in 1996, and it was basically hand-checking and the fallout of that rule change. Here are his quotes, via Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.
“It’s more of a finesse game. It’s more small ball. Which, personally, I don’t really care much for,” Bryant said. Like so many from the old-school – even at 35, Bryant qualifies – he is befuddled at the soft stuff now that passes for physical play. “Makes me nauseous,” he said. “You can’t touch a guy….
“Nowadays, anybody can get out there and get to the basket – you can’t touch ‘em,” he said. “Back then, if you have guys putting their hands on you, you have to have the skills to be able to go both ways, change directions, post up and have that mid-range game, because you didn’t want to go all the way to the basket because you’d get knocked [down].”
A lot of fans bemoan this as well… but the NBA wanted a more offense-driven game rather than the grinding 1990s New York Knicks style. That’s just good business. There were potentially other ways to address the issue, but the one the NBA chosen has worked. That and allowing zone defenses changed the game. We’re seeing pace and scoring go up this season, and that sells tickets.
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In other news, Kobe scoffed at the idea he might not come back because of the Lakers’ struggles, letting them tank into a higher draft pick. What did you really think he was going to say? He sounded like he will be back before the All-Star Game, which means he will be play in that game.
Also, he’s not playing in the 2016 Olympics. Which we knew but he reiterated.