The National Basketball Association took dramatic stands Thursday in defense of two of nature’s most critical imperatives.
The legacy bucket, and the pivot foot.
And both can be traced, in one case indirectly and in the other direct as hell, to the Golden State Warriors.
The first, which we will simply come to call “The Draymond Green Clause,” has made wayward limbs to unprotected groins a “point of emphasis” this season. That means three things:
- Shots to the amusement park, inadvertent or otherwise, will be more swiftly punished at the time of delivery.
- More players will learn the gentle art of pantomiming the infraction by doubling over in manhood-related pain in order to get an opponent ejected
- There will be an immediate backlash against flippy-flopping in favor of subtle uses of groinal blunt-force trauma.
It is the way of all rules changes. Rule is instituted, rule is abused, rule is modified backward to ignore the initial thing it was meant to combat.
The second is more historical, and we suspect will be ignored as early as Christmas. That is the seemingly disturbing number of dribble-free steps players will be allowed at the perimeter, and will be known as The Stephen Curry Rule in honor of the greatest long-distance shooter since Meadowlark Lemon. As Curry was once captured on video taking eight small but distinct steps en route to one of those 30-foot baskets that left opponents yowling in helplessness, it might as well bear his name, though he is hardly the only offender here.
The traveling thing has been a debating point among NBA types for decades, going back to the days of the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Most of the time, it was about players going to the basket and getting that extra step (later extended to steps) to make the approach easier. It has always been ignored as part of the NBA’s we-like-offense-and-that-stuff-will-work-itself-out-anyway-besides-stars-should-get-an-extra-step-or-four-for-the-sake-of-the-nightly-highlights-package philosophy.
But the rampant increase in three-point shooting has created a new kind of traveling, and though Curry is merely the most prolific long-range shooter of his (or anyone else's) era, he gets to be the guy after whom this new “point of emphasis” is named.
And when we say “point of emphasis,” we mean “thing we yammer on about during training camp and stop doing after awhile in hopes that everyone will take the hint.” It never works that way, of course, but like we said, it is the way of all rules changes.
But the Green Rule is actually necessary because there is no sport, not even MMA, in which overt Y-front assaults are officially sanctioned, and other than the NFL, ignored as part of the violent hilarity at the bottom of a pile because of the general ungovernable chaos of the sport.
The arguments put forward in Green’s defense when he avoided punishment for the Stephen Adams Incident but later got a game for tapping LeBron James ran along the lines of “Every player flails, and it’s just a natural part of his game.” This argument, also known as the He Can’t Help Himself Defense, was rejected by groin owners everywhere, and frankly was ridiculed as the nonsense it is.
But being merely a “point of emphasis” is insufficient to make it stop, because Green’s deeds were only the most obvious examples of a greater incidence of hand-to-gland combat in the NBA. The punishment should actually be fat fines and fatter suspensions, because not playing carries a greater stigma than merely paying, and teammate scorn is still the most stinging.
But that leads to greater attempts to fake offensive contact, also known historically as the Divac Genuflect, and there are enough players willing to try it that the punishment for faking it should be absolutely the same as delivering the blow – massive fine, inspirational suspension, and maybe even an actual punch in the nursery to let the miscreant know that hitting the floor in agony better be caused by genuine agony.
If that happens, we fully support whatever sanctions are introduced this year above and beyond the “point of emphasis” level.
As for the Curry Rule, well, good luck with that. Adam Silver is the fifth commissioner to tackle the issue (he is also the fifth commissioner, so figure that out), and each of the previous four failed to make their intentions stick. Indeed, the traveling rule and guidelines have been elasticized to the point where one wonders why any player dribbles ever.
But the league's prissier minds keep trying, bless their wretched little hearts, and this attempt will likely go the way of the others. Before long, players will be taking 40-footers while riding a Segway, and purists will go, “I remember the good old days when Kyle Korver only took four steps to get into his shooting position. Damned game’s going to hell in a handbasket.”
Of course it is. But maybe it will be a safer place for heritage warehouses, and that will at least be something worthwhile.