Thank God Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has officially weighed in on what seems to be a growing consensus â€” especially this week â€” that what Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley likes to call physical defense, is what others call flopping or even, “dirty” play. When asked about Beverley, Pop The Hang Time Blog’s Fran Blinebury, “I haven’t noticed him being dirty.”
Listen, it’s not like Beverley is an angel. He loves nothing more than getting opposing point guards out of their rhythm with some gnarly, gnat-like defense. It’s not so good, though, when it can disrupt his own team, like James Harden admitted after Houston’s loss in Oklahoma City earlier this week.
But Beverley lends Houston an air of toughness they didn’t have before, which is why Kevin McHale‘s decision to start him over Jeremy Lin was a great move earlier in the season. But what about the nagging sensation among fans â€” and certainly among opposing players â€” that Beverley isn’t just a pest, he’s a dirty player? What one man calls, dirty, another calls hardscrabble, and nobody knows that better than the coach of the Spurs.
The greatest coach in the game today, would like a word with those calling Houston’s rabble-rouser dirty (emphasis ours)
“I haven’t noticed [Beverley] being dirty. I’ll say that,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
“When the name Beverley comes up, the first thing that comes to my head is he’s a monster defender and really gets into people and does one helluva job. Maybe he’s done things that I haven’t seen. But I have never thought of him as dirty. I’ve always thought of him as physical and really good at it.”
If you’ve been drinking the Popovich Kool-Aid the last few years (we’re drunk off the stuff), then you can’t be surprised by what Popovich sees out on the court. When Blinebury asked about the knee-to-knee contact with Russell Westbrook in last year’s playoffs, which ended up sidelining the Thunder point guard for the first time in his entire career, here’s what Popovich said:
“I thought it just happened,” he said. “I don’t think that was purposeful from what I saw.”
Again, we agree. So what, if anything, can be correctly labeled a dirty play? Popovich has an erudite answer for that as well. According to Pop, dirty has to do with intent, and whether the action on the court is a flagrant movement to injure or harm, rather than an inadvertent one:
“I just think that probably shows itself in the necessity of the action as far as whether it’s a blatant movement,” he said. “Whether it’s an elbow or a kick or a head-butt or whatever, it might be for no reason whatsoever that doesn’t have anything to do with playing as opposed to physicality. You know, getting up into somebody, touching somebody, blocking out, making hard cuts and making great picks and that sort of thing. That’s an aggressive player. Or somebody who’s always trying to get to the rim. Or somebody who’s always ready to block out and put their body on you. That’s all aggressiveness.
“Dirty is cheap. Cheap stuff that doesn’t really have anything to do with the game. And you can tell the difference pretty easily.”
BOOM! But, um, it’s “pretty easy” to spot the difference when you’re an NBA lifer who has watched more basketball than we can even dream of watching in the rest of our lifetime. Then again, we’ve never thought Beverley was dirty. He’s a guy that takes a special pride in his defense, in a league where that’s very rare.
He straight jacked Russ the other night (not the pre-timeout tussle, but the theft at half-court afterwards), and his domination of Jrue Holiday over the preseason was the stuff of legend:
Popovich used to coach one a player with a similar defensive mentality as Beverley, and people around the league used to call him dirty, too (especially Laker fans convinced Bruce was sliding under Kobe’s jumper to purposely try and sprain Mamba’s ankle).
“Brucie [Bruce Bowen] weighed about 83 pounds,” Popovich said. “The guys that guarded him weighed 220 or 200 or something like that. He was a like a gnat. But he was a persistent gnat that drove them crazy with what he could do. But it wasn’t because he was overly physical or anything like that. He had a great understanding of space and had good, quick feet and had a huge desire to be a pain in the neck. He’s still a pain in the neck.”
What about some of the other more notorious NBA outlaws that dared to defend as if their life depended on it?
“I hated Danny Ferry until he was on our team. Bill (Laimbeer) was easy for other fans to hate. But you’d love him on your team. He’d help you win.”
Coughs, sputters, furrows brow. Did he just declare Bill Laimbeer was NOT a dirty player? That’s way too far Pop! Laimbeer was the worst. Then again, we weren’t Pistons fans back in the day.
See, it can happen to any of us.
Is Patrick Beverley a dirty player?
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