Steve Kerr wants NBA ‘to get back to the point where players need to earn fouls’

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Has the pendulum swung too far? Is it too easy for an offensive player to draw a foul in today’s NBA?

Plenty of old-school fans would say yes. And no doubt James Harden, Chris Paul, Lou Williams, and others get to the line for calls that frustrate defenders, coaches, and fans because there is not much there. It’s not what they remember getting called when they played in middle school or on the playground.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr wants to see an end to that. When asked about trends in the NBA he’d like to see with the new year, Kerr talked about the line where fouls are called, via Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“I would like to see a slight reversal in what we’re trying to accomplish as a league,” Kerr said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Spurs. “I think we’ve gone overboard in rewarding offensive players. And what I mean by that is we’ve rewarded offensive players for fooling the officials and attempting to fool the officials…

“I think we need to get back to the point where players need to earn fouls and earn it by beating their man,” Kerr said, “and drawing contact in a natural way and not flopping and flailing and grabbing arms and that’s going on all over the league.

“We have to decide as a league, are we going to call fouls that people would laugh about at a pickup game? That’s what we have to decide ultimately. And to me that’s where we’ve gone overboard.”

Kerr was quick not to blame the referees — they are enforcing what the league wants. Players, he added, as smart to try and take advantage of the rules as enforced. Kerr said the change has to come from the NBA offices in Manhattan, not game officials. Gregg Popovich agreed with Kerr, calling today’s game “boring” to coach because of the foul hunting.

There’s a balance to be struck here.

Kerr played in the 1990s, and fans remember that era fondly because of Michael Jordan and the Bulls (and those Sunday NBC game broadcasts). That was beautiful, high-level basketball — and a far cry from the slog most of the league had become at the time. Clutching and grabbing were the norm; offensive players could not just move freely around the court, scoring was down and the pace of the game had slowed to a crawl. Go watch a Knicks vs. Cavaliers game from the ’90s and tell me about “the beautiful game.” Only Gen-Xers wearing rose-colored glasses remember the overall game from that era fondly.

So the NBA changed how rules would be enforced starting in 1997-98, most famously putting in the “hand-checking rule” that stopped players from putting their hands on a player on the perimeter. Clutching and grabbing off the ball was called, and the game opened up — and it’s popularity (after a dip in the immediate post-Jordan years) grew as fans gravitated towards star who thrived in the new style of play (LeBron James, Stephen Curry, etc.).

Now, with the push toward efficiency, there are players such as Harden who have turned foul hunting into an art form. Getting to the free-throw line is an efficient way to score, players know what referees will call, and they bait defenders to cross the line (or just outright initiate the contact and count on the call). It’s smart basketball, if not fun to watch. It led to the G-League experiment this season with one-shot for two-point free throws (one of my main takeaways from the G-League showcase in Las Vegas last month is that the 2-for-1 is not coming to the NBA, it’s DOA).

Where should the line on fouls be drawn? Kerr is right. This is a conversation the league needs to have. The NBA’s competition committee should be talking about this next summer. Parades to the free-throw line are not good entertainment, and the league is always focused on keeping the game flowing and exciting to watch. Nobody wants a return to the hockey that was played on some NBA courts in the 1990s, but finding a way to make players really earn a foul would be a good thing.

 

 

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball “nowhere near playing,” could miss entire season

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls
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“I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up. I would love to play. I would never count that out.”

Lonzo Ball tried to put an optimistic face on his recovery from a second knee surgery, but he was realistic and put no timetable on a return.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was more realistic, speaking Saturday before the Bulls took on the Magic. Via Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s made some progress, but I’d be the first one to tell you he’s nowhere near playing,” Donovan said. “He’s just not. Because he’s not running on a consistent basis. When he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again — I think you’ll feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Could Ball be out for the entire season? Donovan again, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My guess would be – there’s not been a specifically set date – my guess would be I think we get through the All-Star Break, I think there would probably be everybody sitting down to talk about length and time of the season, how realistic is it for him to get back, if he could get back what would the minutes look like, is it not worth having him back just because it’s too much?’’ Donovan said. “I think everything, at least in my conversations with medical about him, have always been geared towards helping him get back to playing. Certainly once you get out of the All-Star Break, with the amount of time that’s left, basically you’re at the end of February. You have all of March and not even two weeks in April, so you start to get to that point where I think there will be some conversations of, ‘OK, if he’s still not close to playing, what’s the plan moving forward?’”

Ball has undergone multiple knee surgeries. The first was in January 2022 and the expectation at the time was he would return for the playoffs, but his knee didn’t respond well during rehab. That led to a second knee surgery, and recovery from that is going slowly as well. It leaves the Bulls in a tough spot, they miss his defense and his being a floor general on offense as they have struggled to a 23-26 record this season that sees them sitting as the No. 11 seed in the East.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder (if he does sit out Monday against the Nets, as the team announced).

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken at home against the Thunder.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.