NBA Rumor: Old School vs. New School

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“That was the good old days, it kept the humility intact,” Erving said. “You felt honored to be a professional athlete and not privileged, because there was just some things you just had to suck it up and go do. We depended a lot on our trainers and equipment managers and what have you to move the franchise from city to city, and you always had to catch the first flight out the next morning so we didn’t have a lot of the conveniences they have today, but that’s okay. I think it’s made some of the players a little softer than the ’70s, ’80s, ’60s and ’50s players, but there’s fan appreciation for the softness and the finesse and it is what it is.”

Kevin Garnett: Twenty years ago, guys used their hands to control players. Now you can’t use your hands. That makes defense damn near impossible. Can you imagine not hand-checking Michael Jordan? Naw. The fact that you can’t touch players gives the offensive player so much flexibility. Defensive players have to take angles away and stuff like that. But if you have any creativity and ambition, you can be a great offensive player in this league.

Kevin Garnett: The fadeaways, one-leg runners, the one-leg balance shots — that’s stuff that Dirk Nowitzki brought to our game. And now when I watch Joker play, it feels like he has taken that Dirkness and mixed it with his own talent. And Steph Curry revolutionized things with being able to shoot it from distance with such consistency. Klay Thompson. Dame Lillard. These guards changed the game. I don’t know if even the guards from 20 or 30 years ago could play in this time right here. It’s creative. It’s competitive. It’s saucy. You’ll get dropped! A [expletive] will cross you over and break your A.C.L. these days. The game is in a great place.

Shaquille O’Neal thinks his Lakers would’ve easily stopped the Golden State Warriors. O’Neal, who won three NBA championships alongside Kobe Bryant with the Lakers in 2000, 2001 and 2002, said the Warriors would’ve had a big problem against him. “Who is gonna guard me on that team?’ O’Neal asked on the Frank Caliendo Podcast. Draymond Green’s name was brought up. O’Neal immediately dismissed him as a threat. “He gonna be in foul trouble the first two minutes, let’s put it that way,” O’Neal said.

For many it’s unequivocally Jordan, as he’s gone 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals, compared to LeBron’s 3-for-6 record in the Finals. Morey views it much differently, however, but he added a minor detail change to help him make his pick. The Rockets general manager was on ESPN LA’s Mason and Ireland talk radio show and shared his take. “People love to talk about this. For sure LeBron is the greatest human to play basketball. That’s not even a question, but it’s not even fair to Michael Jordan to say that. LeBron is years later and the game has evolved. And every athlete is pretty much better than the athletes were 30 years ago. If you put MJ in the league now, that would be an interesting discussion but if you just want to say who is the best human to ever play basketball, I think it’s pretty obvious.”


“At that time, people were calling Larry Bird the quintessential forward,” Rodman says. “He was great, but he couldn’t play multiple positions like Scottie could. He wasn’t agile enough. I just don’t think people realize what Scottie was doing in 1991. “He revolutionized the point-forward position. All these players today should thank Scottie Pippen. Guys like Kevin Durant should say, ‘Wow, look what you did for us.’ Scottie could handle, he could shoot the ball, he could defend, he could rebound. “If LeBron was playing during the ’90s, I’d still say Scottie Pippen was the second-best player behind Michael.”

“I think this generation [of players] is not getting enough credit for what they’re doing,” Thomas said. “Because the athletes that are in this generation are so far superior than what was in my generation. [When we were playing], Jordan was the best athlete that we had ever seen, [but] from an athletic standpoint, there are like 10 or 11 guys in the NBA right now with Jordan’s athleticism. We didn’t have that back then. With what [Kevin Durant] and LeBron are doing, if you put them back in the era of the ’80s, with their talent, their athleticism and their skill, who’s the GOAT?”

So there’s no way the Hall of Famer would choose the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to beat the 2016-17 Warriors in a seven-game series, right? That is right. “I go with the Warriors on that one just because of the offensive firepower,” Mullin told NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh on “The Habershow” podcast. Would he still pick the Warriors if he was face-to-face with Michael Jordan and had to answer the question? “I would. I would,” Mullin declared. “It’s really not about Michael and Scottie (Pippen). Those guys will handle their business. And they’d probably be able to really — I don’t know about shut down — but really make it tough for Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson). They’d put Scottie on Steph — Phil Jackson’s philosophy was cut the head of the snake off, so that would be a long series for Steph. “Michael and (Ron) Harper could hound Klay. Now, hounding and stopping are two different things. But with (Kevin) Durant — you’re talking about arguably the top offensive player when it’s all said and done. He’s gonna be up there all time.”

So there’s no way the Hall of Famer would choose the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls to beat the 2016-17 Warriors in a seven-game series, right? That is right. “I go with the Warriors on that one just because of the offensive firepower,” Mullin told NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh on “The Habershow” podcast. Would he still pick the Warriors if he was face-to-face with Michael Jordan and had to answer the question? “I would. I would,” Mullin declared. “It’s really not about Michael and Scottie (Pippen). Those guys will handle their business. And they’d probably be able to really — I don’t know about shut down — but really make it tough for Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson). They’d put Scottie on Steph — Phil Jackson’s philosophy was cut the head of the snake off, so that would be a long series for Steph. “Michael and (Ron) Harper could hound Klay. Now, hounding and stopping are two different things. But with (Kevin) Durant — you’re talking about arguably the top offensive player when it’s all said and done. He’s gonna be up there all time.”

“I would average more because you can’t foul as hard [in today’s game],” O’Neal said. And as far as playing against the modern-era bigs? “You can shoot jumpers, but you have to understand that when you’re shooting jumpers, you have to have your legs. F–k around with me three or four quarters, you’re not going to have your legs,” O’Neal continued. “That’s why every guy who shot jumpers against me probably had a nice one, two or even three quarters. But in that fourth quarter? I’m just going to go into the middle of the block, you’re going to be in foul trouble, so you’re not going to be in the game. And then when you try to shoot a jump shot, I’m going to get up on you. And when you drive by me, I’m going to try to break your arm. I’m going to foul you real hard and get in your head.”

Real recognize real. Last year, former NBA superstar Allen Iverson stated that current Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry is in his top five players of all time, adding that Curry would be the starting point guard if he were to assemble an all-time starting five. Since then, Iverson’s comments have stuck with Curry. The two-time MVP admitted in an episode of Showtime’s “All the Smoke” that he has Iverson’s remark saved on his phone. “I ain’t never had a big head. That dude who I picked up a lot of game and inspiration from — he’s now looking at my game … Some OGs, they don’t want to relinquish the praise. Same way we respect the OGs, we want it both ways. So when you do hear that, that means something,” Curry said in the show’s latest episode that is set to premiere this Thursday.

Gary Payton: The younger guys always say, “Well, in your era, you guys couldn’t do this or that.” If that’s the case, I wish you could come to our era and play in our era. I wish we had a time machine so that we could put them in our era and see how they would fare. Sometimes, they say, “Well, you couldn’t play in this era because of the shooting and scoring!” Well, when we were in our early 20s, we were pretty athletic and dominant too; that’s why you know about us. It’s just changed. You can’t put your hands on guys. The league is about scoring; they want you to score and they want to run up the points, so it’s entertaining. In our era, we were talking about locking guys down. We were talking about beating you up. We were talking about putting you on your back if you tried to come in the paint and dunk. We wanted you to think that you may get hurt every time you came in the paint. You know what I’m saying? Now, that will get you a flagrant or get you kicked out of the game and they may even suspend you after evaluating it. We didn’t have all of that. We’d put you on your back, they’d look at it and then you’d go on about your business. It’s just so different.

“You ever heard of the term cooking the books? That’s what [big-man analytics] are to me,” Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal says. “‘Oh, our company is doing great. We’re doing this. And we’re doing that,’ when actually it’s a bulls— company. “My contention is that if a big man comes in and wants to dominate, he can dominate — and easily. Because we have shifted away from physicality, teams don’t know how to play [that style] anymore. “If the right big man comes in, it’ll be back like the old days, where he will be a guy you’ve got to change your defenses for.”

While speaking to Craig Melvin on “Today,” Jordan was asked if he would amend the list of players he said would be unbeatable in a pickup game back in 2013. Jordan said he wouldn’t, sticking with Hakeem Olajuwon, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and James Worthy on the list. “So, Steph Curry shouldn’t be offended when he watches this,” Melvin asked. “I hope not. He’s still a great player. Not a Hall of Famer yet though,” Jordan said. “He’s not.”

Westphal, a five-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA guard who spent the late 70′s as one of the NBA’s most dynamic players, loves the game of basketball. He’s careful to make that point. He’s not trashing the game to make some grand point or pump up his own era. He just thinks things have gotten a bit… generic. “The styles are all the same now,” he told me. “You spread out, you run a pick and roll with the slowest defender, and put a couple of shooters in the corner. You don’t have individual teams with an offense that’s different than somebody else’s offense. It’s become too cookie cutter and too reliant on the 3.”

Still, he has a point. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder, and Westphal clearly misses the nuance that his pre-3-pointer days afforded (Westphal was in the NBA for six seasons before the league created the 3-point line). He’s also careful not to cross the line of bitterness. He’s not angry that the game has changed. He’s not stomping his feet about anything. He just doesn’t particularly enjoy things as much as he thinks he could. “I love basketball, but I think the pendulum has swung too far to the three point line,” he said. “I’d like to see more of a blend of inside, outside, fastbreak, more styles.

Daryl Morey: “We put all our assets in to trade for him, but no one could anticipate he’d be the best player in the world.” Jackson Dahl: “Why did you put all your assets? Why him?” Daryl Morey: “So both the eye test, because he looks amazing, I think anyone who watched him [would agree]. If you looked at data at the time, once he had the ball in his hands – and it’s still true to this day. And I get a lot of [expletive] because someone asks me ‘who’s the better scorer? [Harden] or Michael Jordan?’ And it’s just factual that James Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan. Based on literally you give James Harden the ball and before you’re giving up the ball how many points do you generate, which is how you should measure offense, James Harden is by far No. 1 in NBA history. And he was No. 1 even at the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s just he was coming off the bench, it was a little more hidden. So you needed good data to sort of suss that out.”

“I don’t really think they care [about the past],” Hall of Famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe added. “There are some guys who come out to our events and they understand. I remember when LeBron came out, he had a pretty good appreciation for the guys who played before him and the history of the game. He’s always been that way. But now, you have other guys who are 18 years old, 19 years old or 20 years old and they haven’t really [learned the history]. All they know is [what’s taught to them] by their AAU coach. They don’t know how the game used to be played. There’s no appreciation for the history of the game.”

“What I hear through the Retired Players Association is that the younger players really have no idea about the past and the history,” Hall of Famer Dave Cowens added. “Yesterday, Caron Butler made the distinction between young baseball players and young basketball players. Young baseball players from, say, the Dominican Republic know who Roger Maris and Willie Mays are. I don’t know if today’s young players from Europe know who some of the [legends] are, especially if they played in the ’60s and ’70s. You wonder why that is, in a game with far fewer players than baseball or football? But that’s just the way that it is.”

Perdue says MJ’s persistence seems to be the differentiating factor between him and LeBron—the latest, and perhaps most promising yet, challenger to Jordan’s GOAT throne. “You see LeBron say: ‘I’m playing hard, I averaged a triple-double, I’ll sleep well tonight,'” Perdue says. “I don’t think you would ever hear those words come out of MJ’s mouth. “Even if he had 60, [if] he lost and thought somebody had got the best of him, he would be pissed.”

Where do you think this team ranks all-time? JaVale McGee: It’s a whole different era and a whole different type of basketball nowadays. You get there’s not a lot of physicality as there was back then. But still, I’ve seen the work that Steph [Curry] put in behind the scenes. The way he has to get open in games and the way teams guard him in games, he still gets points…it’s amazing. And being there seeing KD working and him lying to people, telling people he’s 6’9” when he’s 7’.

“I’ve seen all the teams from Bill Russell’s teams to now,” Thompson said. “If they go 16-0, with the season they have and the personnel they have, to me, they would be the greatest team in history.” In other words, Thompson will not represent one of many former NBA luminaries to boast superiority about their past teams over the current Warriors. “I better say we’d win because Magic [Johnson] would have me exiled from L.A.,” Thompson said, laughing. “But this Warriors team is legit. They can beat anybody.”

For all those former greats turned hot takers, Steve Kerr has your back: The Warriors would have no chance against any of the great teams of the past. “They’re all right,” Kerr said at Friday’s shootaround in advance of Game 4 of the NBA Finals. “They would all kill us. The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the 50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.” Kerr is, of course, talking with his usual healthy dose of sarcasm.
4 years ago via SLAM

Do you see any comparisons between the 2004 Pistons and teams today? Sheed: “Oh, we’d run through them. Not even close. We play defense.” Mike Brown compared the defense of today’s Warriors and that Pistons team. Do you agree? Sheed: “I’d agree to a certain point. But I think the Warriors’ defensive strategy is, I’ma put up more shots than you. And if you try to match that, then you assed out because they got exceptional shooters. “So that’s their whole defensive thing. I don’t call it good defense if the man came down and he shot a jump shot or shot a three and missed it, and the Warriors went back down to the other end and scored it.

Durant then shared the following story: “We played in Vancouver, first game in a Warriors uniform. And I see James Worthy walking out as I was leaving the game … it’s a legend here. ‘Big Game James.’ I didn’t get to see him play but I just know all about him … I’m a little skeptical at this point to even talk to anybody from the generation before because I don’t even know how they feel about me as a person, as a player because these dudes — they look at me as like, ‘Oh you switching teams, you chasing this, you chasing that.’ So I’m just gonna keep it moving. “But he was like, ‘Man. Don’t worry about that stuff. People change jobs every single year, every single day. Don’t worry about that. Just go out there and keep working and go win.’ So I’m like, ‘Man that’s nice.’

“So I came back home that night and my boy Randy — I was like, ‘Man. James worthy was cool. He showed me so much love. I appreciate that.’ He (Randy) was like, ‘Huh? He was talking so bad about you on TV. He was saying Magic wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have done that…’ “Yo, stop selling out. Stop selling your brothers out. This is a fraternity. Stop selling us out … stop doing that man, and then come in my face talking that nonsense. I was really fooled with him.”

For those players, today’s game isn’t so much a game as it is a scrimmage. Or, as Isiah Thomas recently called it: “Straight summer league.” Thomas was talking about how many points he would average if he played in today’s league. “Crazy numbers,” he said, modestly. “When you come down on a 3-on-1 fast break and pull up from the three-point line, it’s like straight summer league,” he said. “I was good in summer league. If you saw some of our barnstorming games, we would be doing that type of stuff in the NBA right now.”

“This game is global, man. Do these people know where this game started? I’m from the 70s and 80s and we weren’t worldwide,” Gervin told USA TODAY Sports. “My playoff games were tape delayed. To say that this league is not where it should be, to me, being a part of the league, is insane. We’re all over the world, man. The only game that was really all over the world was soccer. Now we’re all over the world competing against soccer. So that tells you a lot, man. We’ve got guys in this league that are from all over the world. When I played, I don’t know if we had anybody from any (other) country.”

Q: What about this thing with LeBron throwing the water bottle. Did it bother you, and not necessarily as the Knicks coach but as a former player? Jeff Hornacek: “Yeah, I mean you can have the old-school respect for the game. The guys now are playing the game where they’re having fun, and if that’s something that they’re having fun doing … You know all that would do for me as a player is the next time you play them that should jack you up and get you ready to go. I don’t know if there’s enough of those players in today’s game that take any stock in that, but that’s how we would approach it … Everybody looks at it differently I guess.”

Here is what Barkley said about the Warriors: “Maybe I’m old school, but I’m never going to like that little girly basketball where you have to outscore people. I’m biased against girl’s basketball. I love (UConn women’s coach) Geno Auriemma. I love women’s college basketball. I don’t want it in the NBA.” Kerr was asked his thoughts on the latest Barkley criticism: “We didn’t talk about it. But it’s getting to the point that I feel like if our whole team walked in front of Charles’ house he’d yell ‘Get off my lawn!’ That’s how I feel about it.”

Still, as the latitude for even role players has grown, the “standards for what great shooters are have completely dropped,” said Legler, who when he was with the Washington team in 1995-96 shot .522 from 3-point range, attempting about four 3-pointers a game. “People like Brent Price and me had to lead the league in 3-point shooting to have a green light. Now it’s eight or nine guys per roster,” he said. “You’re considered this gunslinger if you make three of nine now, because that means that guy is worth 250 3-pointers a season. If I shot less than 38 percent from there when I played, I wouldn’t have been on the floor or in the league very long.”

He said the acceptance of the long-distance gunner is less about the evolution of the game and more about team executives and coaches who rely on analytics that say the quick 3-point shot is more effective than the conventional, walk-it-up 2-pointer. “This is the first time in our sport you get no credit for institutional knowledge,” he said. “We live in an age now where we are bombarded by more data than any society that’s ever existed on this earth.”

Van Gundy says Thomas is right about the “lack of variety” in style of play now. But he disagrees with him about the value of analytics. “I think we simply had people that came in and made coaches think on a lot of different levels about a lot of different things. They had strong beliefs, and sometimes it made you go back and re-evaluate. The biggest thing is, it’s a players’ league. And it’s picking the right players. The Warriors get Curry and then get Draymond Green, who can play on the perimeter. Then they get Andrew Bogut for interior defense and more passing. They put the players around Curry that allows him the freedom to become who he is now.”

5 years ago via ESPN

Now that he has delivered Cleveland its first championship in 52 years, James said his chief motivation is catching or eclipsing Jordan as the best player ever: “My motivation is the ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.” Armstrong, now a player agent who represents Derrick Rose, has some advice for James. “Chasing a ghost is in make-believe land,” Armstrong told ESPN.com in a telephone conversation. “That’s far-out, that’s unattainable, that’s something you can’t achieve. This ain’t no ghost. If you want to do it, there’s a blueprint. It’s possible. There’s only one way to get there. It’s not possible for him to do what Jordan did because the circumstances are different, everything is different. What is possible for him is to be bigger than every situation that’s put in front of him, to dominate every situation that’s in front of him.”

5 years ago via AP

The Warriors’ 73 victories broke the Bulls’ 1996 record, but O’Neal said his 2001 Lakers would have beaten them. That team set an NBA record by going 15-1 in the postseason for the second of three straight championships under Jackson, back when O’Neal could be an even bigger physical force before rules changes loosened the game for free-flowing offenses like Golden State’s to thrive. “If you’re using those rules, we’d win. Now we use these rules these days, we’d still win, because you wouldn’t be allowed to touch me, you wouldn’t be allowed to touch Kobe,” O’Neal said. “So yeah, that’s how I always look at it.”

“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it,” Barkley told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.

“It’s funny how the game has changed,” Bird continued. “And my thinking about it. I was really worried—back sixteen, seventeen years ago—that the little guy didn’t have a spot in the N.B.A. anymore: it was just going to be the big guards like Magic Johnson. But then players started shooting more threes and spacing the court, and everyone wants small guards now. Watching these kids play now, I’m like everybody else: Wow, man. They can really shoot! They have more freedom to get to the basket. The ball moves a little better. These kids are shooting from farther, with more accuracy. Now some teams shoot up around thirty threes a game. My era, you always think that’s the greatest era. But I’m not so sure anymore.”

“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it,” Barkley told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.
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The Clippers owner also paid the town of Inglewood $66.2 million for the land where Intuit Dome will sit. The Clippers will get some of that back, though. Intuit, the software company that makes Turbo Tax, will pay the team more than $500 million for a 23-year naming rights slot. That deal only enhanced Ballmer’s optimism. “This stadium is about being optimistic about our team,” Ballmer said. “It’s about being optimistic about our fans. Get in the building, pump up, make energy,” Ballmer added, clapping his hands. “Your energy can feed our team to greater success.”
Storyline: New Clippers Arena