As the Los Angeles Lakers continue to struggle this season it has been very difficult for Kobe Bryant to sit and watch, but it appears that is not the only thing the Lakers star finds hard to watch as he stated on Monday that he does not favor the “small ball” brand of basketball and officiating across the NBA, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“It’s more of a finesse game,” Bryant said before the Lakers played the Chicago Bulls on Monday. “It’s more small ball, which, personally, I don’t really care much for. I like kind of smash-mouth, old-school basketball because that’s what I grew up watching. I also think it’s much, much less physical. Some of the flagrant fouls that I see called nowadays, it makes me nauseous. You can’t touch a guy without it being a flagrant foul.”
Bryant also stated that Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni has contributed to the use of “Small ball” basketball around the league. D’Antoni has favored the usage of smaller lineups on the floor since his coaching days with the Phoenix Suns in order to have more speed on the court to help increase the tempo of the game and his team’s scoring outputs. He accomplished this by moving shooting guards to the small forward position, small forwards to power forward, and so on and so forth.
This allowed D’Antoni to put lineups on the floor that used what has termed as “stretch” forwards, which are power forwards that are outside shooters and have a game more suited to play away from the rim. During his Suns’ days, he used players such as Shawn Marion, Tim Thomas and Boris Diaw in the front court to help stretch the floor with shooters.
D’Antoni had success with this style of basketball in Phoenix as he coached four consecutive 50-plus win teams from 2004-2008. However, he would struggle during his 3 1/2 seasons with the New York Knicks as he only would lead the team to no higher than a 42-40 regular season record.
Nonetheless, the “Small Ball” brand of basketball has spread throughout the league to teams like the Miami Heat, who have won the last two championships using this style, that feature Chris Bosh as an undersized center and at times LeBron James at power forward. The Knicks have also used a smaller lineup in the last two seasons with Carmelo Anthony playing at power forward and the Oklahoma City Thunder have also put lineups on the floor that feature Kevin Durant at power forward.
Bryant also touched upon the hand-check rule, which was implemented into the league during the 2004-05 season, as also being another reason why the current NBA has become “soft” in his eyes.
“I like the contact,” Bryant said. “As a defensive player, if you enjoy playing defense, that’s what you want. You want to be able to put your hands on a guy. You want to be able to hand check a little bit. The truth is, it makes the game [where] players have to be more skillful. Nowadays, literally anybody can get out there and get to the basket and you can’t touch anybody. Back then, if guys put their hands on you, you had to have the skill to be able to go both ways, change direction, post up, you had to have a mid-range game because you didn’t want to go all the way to the basket because you would get knocked ass over tea kettle. So I think playing the game back then required much more skill.”
The 18-year veteran makes a valid point as it does seem that players do get called for fouls more now than ever before as the league over the past several seasons has made it an emphasis to protect its players from getting injured. But in Bryant’s point of view, it may have gone to far to revert back to the “smash-mouth” brand of basketball of the past.
“Kids might be a little too sensitive for that nowadays,” Bryant said with a smirk.
So with that said, it appears that this is the type of basketball that players like Bryant must come to accept as more teams across the NBA are using smaller lineups and more fouls will continue to be called during games.
Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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