With Kobe Bryant retiring, the NBA is preparing itself for his absence in many ways. One of the services he provides that will be sorely missed is his refreshing candor in dealing with the media. But a successor is emerging, slowly but surely: the curmudgeonly Kevin Durant, who even in his wariness of journalists is more prone to dropping truth bombs than damn near anyone else in the NBA. Just see how he goes in on the much-discussed intentional fouling issue:
This was almost certainly brought up to Durant because his Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night (which the Thunder won thanks to Durant’s heroics), and the Doc Rivers’ roster contains one of the most frequent victims of hack-a-whoever, DeAndre Jordan. He’s shooting 39 percent from the charity stripe, about the same as last year, but he’s going to the line far more often, with eight free-throw attempts per game compared to 5.7 last year.
There wasn’t any intentional fouling in the final minutes of Monday night’s game, but the debate rages on: Should it be banned to improve the entertainment product on the court, or is it the responsibility of the worst free throw shooters in the NBA to improve to the point where hacking isn’t a viable strategy?
The one thing that we know is true is that Durant’s view (which plenty of people around the league share) is a simplistic one. It’s insulting to Jordan (and by extension Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond) to imply that he never practices his free throws. Like Howard, Jordan practices them quite a bit and does well in practice situations. It’s simply a mental block that many big men struggle to overcome, and the intentional fouling might have something to do with sapping his confidence.
But that dynamic is precisely why it’s so tough to argue in favor of legislating it out of the game. In a vacuum, it should be so easy for DeAndre to simply work hard and get better at his free throws, but the combination of pressure he puts on himself and the mind games opposing teams play with him combine for an alchemy of bricklaying. Is it as fun as the Warriors slinging the ball over the court? Of course not. Is it a variable component that adds layers to basketball strategy? You’re damn right it is.