In these dog days of December/January/February/March/April in which the only really intriguing thing about the Golden State Warriors is margin of victory, there is something comforting about Steve Kerr playing a more avuncular version of Captain Nostalgia.
In other words, yes, he talked yet again about the death through neglect of the traveling call.
The last time he did so, the National Basketball Associating eased his troubled conscience by the weight of $25,000, so he spent nearly as much time repeating his claims that the traveling call no longer exists as a deterrent as he did begging not to be fined another $25,000, or $50,000, or $75,000 by mean old hall monitor Kiki Vandeweghe in the league office.
But then Memphis’ Mike Conley took five steps before converting an and-one the other night against the Los Angeles Lakers, and then Kansas’ Svi Mykhailiuk took four in preparation for a buzzer-beater against Kansas State Tuesday. Suddenly, the death of dribbling was a topic again, and with an innocent question before the Warriors' 125-117 victory over Portland about the increased pace of play as the trigger, Uncle Good Old Days took the bait up to the reel.
“As far as the individual stuff (about teams playing faster), the only other thing I can offer is that the rules are so heavily weighted for the offense. You can carry the ball and travel and you can’t put your hands on a guy. I shouldn’t get fined for this (author’s note: KA-CHING!). I’m just making an observation. I’m not complaining. I watch tape, I watch League Pass every night. The game has changed so heavily to the offense’s favor. Similar to the NFL where you can’t put your hands on a wide receiver. It’s harder to guard than ever before. You have a generation of young players that have grown up playing with this style of being able to handle the ball anyway you want and turn it over and carry it and travel. Again, just making an observation (author’s note: KA-CHING!), but it’s the truth. It’s really hard to guard people when they are able to do all of that stuff. I think that has something to do with it.
And then, because tempting the third rail with your tongue is so very I think the league really made some good changes with the illegal defense rule and allowing you to zone and kind of encouraging pace and flow. I like where the league is. I think it’s a very entertaining game. I would, as you can tell by my comments, I would like to have a better way to defend. We have given the offensive player enough benefit. I was watching last night; I had to text Luke (Walton), that Mike Conley took five steps on the play and got an and-one. Not only will we let you travel, but we will give you the benefit of that touch at the end. We have to adapt to that. It’s harder to guard, but it’s easier to play offense. These are all trends that the league is going in. Again, Kiki (Vandeweghe), if you are listening, it’s just an observation not a complaint. Don’t fine me.”
Author’s Note: Kiki, he’s daring you. He’s sticking his chin out at you. You have to drop the hammer here, just because we need something to amuse ourselves between now and the January 16 game against Cleveland.
But here’s the kicker. The NBA is experimenting with four- and five-official crews in selected games involving the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s D-League team, and while it seems like an ideal way to make officiating 33 to 67 percent worse, Kerr had an adjunct thought.
“Maybe if they had one who could watch the feet, that could work,” he said with a wry smile after his formal remarks.
Truth is, right now, none of the three officials watch feet, let alone count their employment by the player in possession of the ball, as they have other matters they consider more pressing. It is part of the general deterioration of the art that began with the league’s demand for strict standardization and uniformity of a game that simply cannot provide it.
Add the three-man crews that increased the number of officials by 50 percent, none of the added officials being better than the worst of the officials in the two-man crews.
Then came the don’t-talk-to-the-players era, the find-a-spot-and-hold-it-no-matter-what-happens-on-the-floor era, and now the running-start era which tilts Kerr’s table so.
It must be noted here that the Warriors take full advantage of the traveling “suggestion” like everyone else. To be sure, Stephen Curry can happy feet with the best of them, so this isn’t Kerr playing the aggrieved victim.
It is, however, him trying to strike up a cause last engaged without success by your grandfathers, who used to say at holiday gatherings, “I liked basketball when there was no walking or double dribble or guys standing the key for five seconds. Now go get me a beer.”
And frankly, we are willing to spend at least a couple of hundred thousand of his best dollars watching him tilting at the ever-spinning windmill between now and the start of the postseason.
Well, okay. Running at the ever-spinning windmill, a few steps -- and a few certified checks addressed to 645 5th Avenue, attention Mean Old Kiki Vandeweghe, The Guy Who Hates Pivot Feet.