Should the NBA ban zone defenses? No.

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It was 10 years ago that the NBA started allowing a modified zone defense to be played in the NBA. It’s not a pure zone — you can’t park Dwight Howard in the paint, there’s a defensive three seconds — but more and more teams are using some form of match zones. The Mavericks may have been the heaviest users in the league last season.

Over at the Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman suggests the league would be better if it did away with the zone.

While this might come off as a somewhat parochial quibble, isn’t the entire point of NBA play to feature the star players, to provide the best possible canvas for the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and other perimeter scorers to thrive with their athleticism? While zone defenses can mask individual defensive deficiencies, the NBA is as much an entertainment product as an athletic endeavor. As it is, the NBA still bans true 2-3 or 2-1-2 zones because the player in the middle of such alignments can go no more than 3 seconds without actively defending another player. In other words, the NBA still does not allow true zone defense. In that vein, returning to a truer man-on-man approach could enhance the game and open up scoring, creating a more visually appealing product.

I disagree with my man Ira, and that last sentence is the key — a lack of zones did not create a more visually appealing product.

What the rules then led to is a lot of isolation basketball, something we saw too much of through the 1990s. Because if you had to cover the Thunder man-to-man, and I were Scott Brooks, I’d run Druant and Russell Westbrook isolations all day long? It’s not pretty, but as a coach my job is to win. How you going to stop those two? Teams tried by figuring out ways to play a zone while looking man-to-man, but it just all was not fluid or fun to watch.

I like the added bit of a chess match a zone provides. I like what it does to the game. I don’t want a pure zone because watching Andrew Bynum camp out in the lane for 24 seconds is not fun either, but don’t do away with it all together.

Watch Nowitzki pass Wilt Chamberlain for 6th on NBA scoring list

Associated Press
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DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks became the NBA’s sixth-leading scorer Monday night with another of his signature long-range jumpers.

Nowitzki took Luka Doncic‘s handoff and backed down New Orleans’ Kenrich Williams before hitting a turnaround from the top of the free-throw circle with 8:33 left in the first quarter.

The basket brought Nowitzki to 31,420 points in his career, one more than Wilt Chamberlain. The 40-year-old German trails only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Michael Jordan. James passed Jordan for fourth place on March 6.

Coming into the game, Nowitzki needed just four points to pass Chamberlain, and he started for just the ninth time this season. His first basket was a 20-footer off an assist from rookie Jalen Brunson.

While Nowitzki stands only an inch shorter than Chamberlain’s listed height of 7-foot-1, the two reached their point totals with contrasting styles of play.

Chamberlain once averaged more than 50 points in a season, dominating inside to such a degree that the NBA widened the paint in an effort to neutralize him.

Nowitzki, meanwhile, has made nearly 2,000 3-pointers in his career, establishing the trend of big men with long-range shooting capabilities. He’s an 88-percent free-throw shooter, 37 points higher than Chamberlain’s mark.

“One of his real legacies is gonna be how he helped this game evolve to what it is today,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “In the ’90s and early 2000s, there was a real crisis. Scoring was down. The way Dirk approached the game helped … nudge the game along and open up space. Eventually the value of the 3-point shot to open up space became a reality. And so today, you don’t hear anybody talking about how there’s not enough scoring or the game’s not exciting.”

Nowitzki is 872 points behind Jordan but may retire at the end of the season, though he has said he will decide on his future when the season is over. He is the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons with one team.

Nowitzki missed the first 26 games of the season recovering from left ankle surgery and has been reduced to a role player for much of the year, but he has started the past four games and nine out of the last 12 for the Mavs. His season high entering Monday was 15 points.

 

Stephen Curry is hitting ridiculous shots. Again. Including 3/4 court shot to end quarter.

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Stephen Curry is a show unto himself.

Before the game, Curry was doing this during warmups.

Then at the end of the first quarter came this.

The man is worth the price of admission, even when the Warriors struggle (which they did in the second quarter of this game and the Spurs took a comfortable lead).

Isaiah Thomas gets choked up after tribute video, welcome back from Boston fans

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Isaiah Thomas is still loved in Boston.

He’s the undersized hero who played like an MVP, led the Celtics to the playoffs, all while playing through hip pain and the death of his sister. He embodied what Celtics fans want to see in their stars.

Monday night he returned — in a Denver Nuggets uniform — and IT became emotional during the tribute video and reception from the fans in Boston.

There was more love when Thomas checked into the game.

Next season hopefully Thomas is fully healthy for an entire season and lands in a place where he can truly showcase his talents.

Isaiah Thomas not happy to be benched in Denver, still working to find way back

Associated Press
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Isaiah Thomas is frustrated and nobody can blame him.

Just a couple of seasons back he was fifth in the MVP voting and was lined up for a “back up the Brink’s truck” payday, but he tried to play through a hip injury that eventually required surgery and nobody stepped up with a payday. This season in Denver, on a one-year minimum contract, he was given plenty of time to get his body right, but when he came back he wasn’t helping a team thinking deep playoff run. Thomas averaged 8.6 points a night but is shooting 27.3% from three (where he takes 44% of his shot attempts), and even when he gets to the rim he’s only finishing 50% of his attempts. Coach Mike Malone couldn’t keep Monte Morris — who is a Most Improved Player candidate with his play this year — on the bench while Thomas worked things out, and IT has been moved out of the rotation.

That doesn’t mean he took the news well. From Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

It’s very possible we’ve seen peak Thomas. That doesn’t mean most of the NBA is rooting to be proved wrong on that — I’m among many who want to see him succeed.

Hopefully next season he lands somewhere and really gets that chance. Denver became too good too fast to really be that place for him this season.