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.

Report: Celtics to pursue Kemba Walker in free agency

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The Celtics appear set to lose Kyrie Irving and Al Horford in free agency.

That’ll open a lot of cap space and create needs at point guard and center.

A possibility at starting point guard: Kemba Walker.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:

If they renounce all their free agents, the Celtics project to have about $34 million in cap space. That’s enough to offer Walker a max contract that projects to be worth $141 million over four years.

But the Hornets can offer Walker a super-max contract that projects to be worth $221 million over five years. Charlotte and Walker have described each other as the priority.

The Lakers and Mavericks are also reportedly interested in the point guard.

Boston will face plenty of competition. Walker’s stellar player has earned him multiple good options.

The Celtics – with talented young wings like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and plenty of draft capital – look like one. They still have a reasonably bright future, and Walker would elevate their present.

But the same could be said of the Mavericks with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. The Lakers look even better immediately with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. And the Hornets can offer all that money and the comfort of home.

There will be plenty for Walker to consider this summer.

Andre Iguodala: I broke my leg last year, but Warriors called it just a bruise

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Kevin Durant was reportedly in agony about not helping the Warriors deep into the playoffs. His teammates were reportedly frustrated he hadn’t returned.

Did Durant – who tore his Achilles just 12 minutes into his return after a month-long absence – feel pressured (internally, externally or both) to rush back?

Durant has yet to speak publicly on the saga, but Golden State forward Andre Iguodala can relate. He missed the final four games of last year’s Western Conference finals against the Rockets and first two games of the NBA Finals with what the team called a “left lateral leg contusion” (fancy word for bruise).

Iguodala on The Breakfast Club:

We have a really good training staff. I’ll give credit where credit’s due. Our training staff is one of the best in the world. And I feel like they got him back. The tough thing is, when you’re an athlete and you’re hurt, everybody is looking at you sideways. And then it being his teammate is harder, because everyone is feeding stuff in our head. “When is KD coming back? When is KD coming back?”

Last year, it happened to me. I missed last three games of the Houston series. It goes to Game 7. We barely get out of that series. And now they’re looking at me like, “When are you coming back?” And I had a fractured leg. But it’s being put out there like, “You’ve got a bone bruise.” I’m like, “Nah, it’s fractured.” So, I’m fighting with the team. I’m fighting with people. I’m fighting with the media. And then my teammates ask me every day, “How you feeling? How you feeling?”

So, with K, he’s getting it from everywhere, too.

What do they always say in sports? “Oh, he’s a tough guy. He plays through injuries.” You’re validated as an athlete if you win a championship or how tough you were. If you sit out, it’s like, “Ah, he’s not tough.”

This is a damning assessment of the Warriors. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but Iguodala is alleging at least one of two things:

1. They misdiagnosed him.

2. They downplayed the extent of the injury publicly.

It could have been both.

A misdiagnosis is obviously troublesome. But downplaying the extent of the injury brings its own problems.

As Iguodala said, that only increased chatter about his return. With so many people talking to him about coming back, it’d be only natural to feel pressure to return. Iguodala is exactly right: Playing through injury gets players praised as tough.

Golden State misleading the public about the injury would also cause issues as the NBA embraces gambling. That opens the door for certain bettors to get inside information.

This sounds a lot like the Durant situation.

The Warriors can talk about how much they care about their players. But a pattern is emerging of injured players being put into peril.

It might be too late with Durant, but Golden State must address this.

The strangest All-NBA ballot

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Remember those odd All-NBA votes? Dwyane Wade, Luke Doncic, Danilo Gallinari and Andre Drummond on the second team, Marvin Bagley III on the third team.

One voter – Kennegh Lau of BesTV, a Chinese outlet – is responsible all those. His ballot:

First team

G: Stephen Curry (Warriors)

G: James Harden (Rockets)

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

F: Kevin Durant (Warriors)

C: Joel Embiid (76ers)

Second team

G: Klay Thompson, Klay (Warriors)

G: Dwyane Wade (Heat)

F: Danilo Gallinari, Danilo (Clippers)

F: Luka Doncic, Luka (Mavericks)

C: Andre Drummond, Andre (Pistons)

Third team

G: Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)

G: Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

F: Marvin Bagley III (Kings)

F: Pascal Siakam (Raptors)

C: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

A couple other standout All-NBA votes: Michelle Beadle of ESPN voted Eric Gordon third team at guard ahead of Kemba Walker, Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, etc. Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette voted Domantas Sabonis third-team forward ahead of LeBron James (who played more minutes than Sabonis!).

There are outlier votes for every award. You can dig through all the results here. Massimo Lopes Pegna of La Gazzetta Dello Sport (an Italian newspaper) apparently submitted his All-NBA team as his All-Defensive team (though it doesn’t exactly match his actual All-NBA team). Beyond that, these votes aren’t necessarily wrong. The consensus isn’t always right.

But All-NBA voting has taken heightened importance with its super-max connection. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. Ballots like Lau’s will increase scrutiny on the system.

That’s an overreaction. There are 100 voters so no single ballot carries too much importance. Again, it’s OK for someone to stray from the consensus.

It’d still be good to reconsider the salary incentives of All-NBA, though. The players who had the best regular seasons – my All-NBA criterion – aren’t necessarily the ones who deserve the highest salaries in years to come. It’s a flawed link, and that goes far beyond Lau’s ballot.

Magic Johnson ready to welcome D’Angelo Russell back to Lakers

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In 2017, then-Lakers president Magic Johnson traded D'Angelo Russell to the Nets and delivered a biting sendoff: “What I needed was a leader.”

Russell wasn’t ready to run a team on the court. His work ethic and maturity off it left plenty to be desired. Most infamously, he alienated his teammates by recording and posting a video of Nick Young discussing sleeping with women other than his fiancé.

But Russell went to Brooklyn and became an All-Star.

So, with rumors swirling about Russell returning to Los Angeles in free agency, Johnson is changing his tune.

Johnson, via Bill Oram of The Athletic:

“Now he’s ready,” Johnson said. “He’s much more mature. I said the only thing, he was immature back then. He could always score, but the guys would never play with him because of what he did (with the Young video). But now all those guys are gone and he’s on another level now.”

This is peak Johnson – talking about players on other teams (no longer tampering), spinning the story to make himself look good and directing the Lakers’ roster without having to take responsibility for it.

There is truth to what Johnson is saying here. Russell is more mature now. It would have been difficult to keep him in a locker room with teammates who didn’t trust him.

But Johnson is also the one who moved Russell rather than betting on his talent. With the right nurturing, Russell could have become a star in Los Angeles in the first place. The Lakers wouldn’t have to use all their cap room to sign him now. They could have already had him.

It’s a little disingenuous for Johnson to present this as him being right all along.