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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.



Report: Terry Stotts to remain Trail Blazers coach next season

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts
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The Trail Blazers had big expectations after reaching the 2019 Western Conference finals and signing their top players, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, to lucrative contract extensions.

Instead, Portland (26-32) is in a dogfight with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, Suns and Kings for the No. 8 seed.

Often, teams underperforming like that fire their coach.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

A source with knowledge of coach Terry Stotts’ situation said there’s no reason to believe he’s in any danger this summer, regardless of how this turns out.

Stotts has a few things working in his favor:

So expect Stotts back next season. But also expect him to face a little more pressure. Even if a lot of what wrong this season wasn’t his fault, losing tends to increase scrutiny on the coach.

In his eighth season with the Trail Blazers, Stotts is the NBA’s fourth-longest-tenured coach (behind only the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, Heat’s Erick Spoelstra and Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle). It just becomes increasingly more difficult for Stotts to meet the high expectations he has helped set in Portland.

For now, though, Stotts appears to remain ahead of the curve.

Stephen Curry reportedly will return to Warriors lineup Sunday vs. Wizards

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After four months off, the Warriors were looking for a soft landing spot to ease Stephen Curry back into the rotation.

How about Sunday, vs. Washington and the worst defense in the NBA this season?

That’s the plan, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Curry has said for some time he was targeting March 1 for a return, this would be that exact date (to be fair to the Wizards, they have played better defense of late). After that, Golden State plays at Denver on the third, has a Finals rematch against Toronto at the Chase Center on March 5, then the 76ers visit the Warriors on the seventh.

Curry suffered a fractured hand just four games into the season when Suns’ center Aron Baynes fell on him. Recovery required two surgeries, one to put pins in to stabilize the bone through the healing process, then a second one to remove those pins once the recovery was far enough along.

While some fans had called for Curry to sit out the season and tank, Warriors coach Steve Kerr emphatically shot that idea down. As he should.

For one thing, Kerr wants to build some familiarity and chemistry between Curry and newly acquired Andrew Wiggins this season. Having Curry back may mean the Warriors don’t finish with the worst record in the league this season (which they have right now) but with the flattened out draft lottery odds that’s not as big an issue. Besides, this is not a deep draft. This is not a situation where the Warriors will get instant help — in our podcast recently, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster described it as the top three picks in this draft would be 6-10 most seasons. The Warriors may ultimately try to trade their pick for a player who can help more next season.

Ben Simmons has nerve impingement in lower back, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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The biggest concern with Ben Simmons back issue is not that it will have him out weeks, it’s that nobody is saying what exactly is causing it.

Simmons has a nerve impingement in his lower back that will have him getting treatment daily, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks, something first reported  by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided some context, but nothing that is very encouraging.

A nerve impingement — what is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve — is exactly what it sounds like: Something is pressing on the nerve, “pinching” it and causing pain.

The big question: What is impinging on the nerve? That’s what Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes asked.

This does not sound like something that is going to be resolved in two weeks and Simmons will be back to normal.

Simmons injured his back last Wednesday in practice while grabbing a rebound, according to coach Brett Brown. Simmons sat out last Thursday’s Sixers game against the Nets, tried to play on Saturday vs. the Bucks but had to come out after one quarter, and has not set foot on the court since.

Simmons averages 16.9 points, 8.3 assists, 7.9 rebounds a game, not to mention a league-best 2.2 steals a night. The All-Star is a core part of the Sixers rotation and will miss significant time they try to climb up into the top four in the East and get home court for the first round of the playoffs. Shake Milton started Monday in Simmons place.

Tilman Ferttita: Rockets don’t fear Lakers, Clippers like they did Warriors

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta likes to talk.

Volume 48.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“I think Milwaukee is head over heels above everybody else,” said Fertitta

“We just need to get home court for the first and second rounds and see what happens.”

“None of us fear L.A. or the Clippers or Denver like we feared Golden State,” he said. “It’s not like how we were scared of them. We could easily win the West this year or get knocked out in the first round. Both L.A. teams, Denver, Houston, we’re all excellent teams. Just comes down to somebody gets hot and makes a shot. Our chances are as good as they’ve ever been.”

The Rockets stood up to the Warriors far more than any other team. But that was most true before Fertitta put his imprint on the franchise. He’s somewhat culpable for Houston cowering to Golden State.

As far as this season, Fertitta is right all around: The Bucks are great, combining last year’s success with important playoff lessons. Houston could easily win the West or lose in the first round. The Lakers, Clippers and Nuggets shouldn’t be feared. (Nobody fears the Nuggets, though they are a real championship contender.)

But the Lakers and Clippers also look like darned good playoff teams. Even if not predicting victory, Fertitta’s comments could become bulletin-board material in Los Angeles.