I hope he saw Stephen Curry answer his ridiculous, attention-starved musings as definitively as possible. I hope he wasn’t too jaded to see Curry handle the ball in a way Robertson only wished he could. I hope his eyesight still works well enough to see from where Curry was launching – and making – his shots.
And I hope Robertson and a number of NBA stars from bygone eras will just shut up and watch and develop an appreciation for Curry and his team, which just might be the best in the history of the game.
The truly great players transcend eras, and Robertson certainly was one of those. He is among the top 10 of all time. So that gives him the right to speak his mind. But it doesn’t give him the right to spout gibberish.
In case you have been immersed in the NFL Scouting Combine, here is what Robertson said late on ESPN Radio last week when asked about the assault on greatness being conducted by Curry and his Golden State Warriors.
“If I’ve got a guy who’s great shooting the ball outside, don’t you want to extend your defense out a little bit?” he said. “I just don’t think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball. They don’t know anything about defenses. They don’t know what people are doing on the court. They talk about analytical basketball and stuff like that.”
It didn’t stop there. After trashing defensive philosophies, Robertson went after today’s approach to offense.
“I think Golden State and some other teams play very well, but look at the game of basketball,” he said. “They run one play. Well, maybe two plays. They’ve got a high-pick with the center, then the shooters run baseline trying to get open with blocks from the forwards. I mean that’s it. You don’t see hardly any reverse plays at all, no double screens, no weak side and whatnot.”
For the record, I am old enough to have seen Robertson play. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the game’s history and the truly great NBA players of previous generations. I also coach high school and AAU basketball and come across dozens of youngsters who are unaware of this game’s great history. It is remarkably encouraging when they want to learn more, and I always make time to fill in the blanks for them.
However, I am not stuck in a time warp, longing for the halcyon days of yesteryear or wagging my finger at whippersnappers like Robertson, who sounds like the NBA’s version of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. One of the truisms of this great game is that it gets better with each generation.
The work conditions are better. The travel is better. The equipment is better. The medical technology is better. The approach to physical fitness is better. The nutrition is better. And that’s just the peripheral stuff.
The scouting, talent evaluation, use of film, dissemination of numbers and strategic preparation is better, because the coaching is exponentially better. And the players also are much better, because in addition to being the beneficiaries of all these advancements, they are much bigger, stronger, faster and quicker than those who came before them.
“I just think it’s preposterous to say that somebody who’s playing now could not have succeeded 20 or 30 years ago,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was actually playing 20 years ago.
Dissing the current generation has been Robertson’s MO for some time. An old NBA friend told me a story about when he worked for a team and was geeked up to be sitting next to “The Big O” on press row. His excitement was quickly extinguished by a steady stream of bitterness from Robertson about nearly everything that was wrong with the contemporary state of the game.
That was 35 years ago.
ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy perhaps put it most politely and succinctly when he said Robertson is “misinformed.” But you don’t have to take Van Gundy’s word for it, or mine, or anyone else’s, for that matter. Just do a little homework.
Visit websites and look at relevant stats, such as shooting percentages and offensive and defensive rating. Go on YouTube and watch clips of games from the 1960s and 1970s. Turn on NBA TV and watch entire games from the 1980s and 1990s.
What you will not see is proper floor spacing, skip passes, quick-hitter inbounds plays, pick-and-roll blitzes, precise defensive rotations, proper use of timeouts, offense-defense substitutions or teams playing the “foul game” down the stretch.
What you will see is leaguewide offensive ratings consistently in the double digits. You will see power forwards like Dave DeBusschere who would be shooting guards and centers like Bill Russell who would be small forwards in today’s game, except they don’t have either the speed or skills to play those smaller positions. You will see guards like Bob Cousy and Gail Goodrich virtually unable to dribble with their off hand. You will see deliberate big men like Nate Thurmond who never venture above the foul line on either end of the floor.
Every player in the above paragraph is a Hall of Famer and excelled in their time. But times have changed, and for the better.
“I could have stopped (Curry) back in my time,” Kerr cracked sarcastically. “Boy, I would have shut Steph down. Because athletes, you know, 50 years ago were much bigger, stronger and faster, more finely tuned. So Steph might not have made it in the league.”
And Robertson’s loose comparison of Curry and his unprecedented, otherworldly combination of range, creativity and accuracy to a pedestrian player such as Adrian Smith was downright insulting. Curry is about to become just the 11th player in NBA history to win consecutive MVPs. Smith played in one All-Star Game, shot 43 percent for his career and has similarity scores along the likes of Arron Afflalo and Raymond Felton.
It isn’t just Robertson. It’s guys like Charles Barkley, who has a weekly forum to espouse this self-serving crap and rarely is held accountable for this idiocy because equally idiotic viewers marvel at his “honesty” and confuse it for truth. It’s guys like Cedric Ceballos, who ignorantly claims his 1993-94 Phoenix Suns team – which didn’t even reach the NBA Finals – would beat the Warriors, “easy.”
“They obviously want to get their name in the media and have their name heard again,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said.
Like just about everything else, Curry has handled the absurdity with class.
“It’s starting to get a little annoying, just because it’s kind of unwarranted from across the board,” he said. “We have a very competent group, and we have fun when we’re out there on the floor, and it shows, obviously. We enjoy what we do. But for the most part, you don’t hear us talking about, you know, comparing ourselves to other great teams and ‘We could beat this team, we’re better than this team.’ We’re living in the moment.”
Bogut wasn’t nearly as polite.
“I hope I’m not a bitter old man in my 50s and 60s,” he said. “When I’m on a couch with a beer open watching, I’ll respect everybody.”
If more former players follow his lead, that is yet another way the NBA will keep getting better.
TRIVIA: With a minimum of 400 games, who are the only four active players who have averaged at least 10 rebounds per game for their entire careers? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith decided to break into a little merengue solo in the middle of Tuesday’s game at Utah.
“We’ve seen some horrendous dancing this year. Cole (Aldrich) was probably the worst dancer I’ve ever seen in my life, but Alex (Stepheson) the other day gave him a run for his money. So we now know it’s not a racial thing.”
TANKS A LOT!: In the race for the worst record – and the best chance at Ben Simmons – the Philadelphia 76ers still hold a two-game lead in the loss column over the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Lakers have the 76ers beat in one area – double-digit losses. The Lakers have 33 losses by 10 or more points. As bad as the Sixers have been, they have 28.
LINE OF THE WEEK: Stephen Curry, Golden State at Orlando, Feb. 25: 34 minutes, 20-27 FGs, 10-15 3-pointers, 1-1 FTs, seven rebounds, eight assists, one block, five turnovers, 51 points in a 130-114 win. It was Curry’s third 50-point game of the season, the most by any player in seven years. It was his fourth career game with at least 10 threes, the most by any player ever. It was his 128th straight game with a 3-pointer, breaking Kyle Korver’s record. And if Jason Smith hadn’t fouled him on a layup late in the first quarter, Curry would have broken Hakeem Olajuwon’s record for most points without a free throw (48).
LINE OF THE WEAK: LeBron James, Cleveland vs. Detroit, Feb. 22: 38 minutes, 5-18 FGs, 0-4 3-pointers, 2-2 FTs, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, six turnovers, 12 points in a 96-88 loss. James is too complete a player to ever have a truly awful game, but this was a bad one. It was his worst shooting game of the season, and when asked about his turnovers, he said, “I probably should have had about 12 of them.”
TRILLION WATCH: The heroes of zeros atoned for a slow start to the week with a strong finish. No one had more than a 1 trillion until Wednesday, when Clippers C.J. Wilcox had a 2 trillion at Denver to open the floodgates. There were 2 trillions from Houston’s K.J. McDaniels on Thursday, Orlando’s Devyn Marble and Toronto’s Anthony Bennett on Friday and San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons on Saturday, when Golden State’s Brandon Rush upped the ante with a 3 trillion. But weekly honors were shared by New Orleans forward Luke Babbitt, who had a 5 trillion vs. Oklahoma City on Thursday, and Phoenix guard John Jenkins, who also had a 5 trillion vs. Memphis on Saturday. And some honorable mention to Thunder guard Andre Roberson, who could have had a mind-boggling 21 trillion had he not hoisted two threes Thursday at New Orleans.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma City at Golden State, March 3. This is a big week for the Thunder, who have to be seething over how they gave away Saturday’s home loss to the Warriors. Oklahoma City has played league-leading Golden State perhaps tougher than any team in a pair of losses three weeks apart. But the Thunder also have lost four of their last five games and visit the Los Angeles Clippers the previous night. Meanwhile, the Warriors will be coming off a day’s rest and should be gunning for their 44th straight home win, which would tie the NBA record set by the Chicago Bulls from March 30, 1995 to April 4, 1996.
GAME OF THE WEAK: Brooklyn at LA Lakers, February 29. Leap day occurs once every four years. It would be nice if games like this one showed up with the same infrequency.
TWO MINUTES: After watching Stephen Curry light up his team for 10 threes and surpass Kyle Korver’s 127-game streak, Magic coach Scott Skiles had perhaps the best assessment. “I have a hard time seeing how that streak is ever going to end,” he said. “It would have to be kind of a fluke night.” During his streak, Curry has averaged 9.3 attempts and 4.3 makes from the arc. At that volume and that percentage, the streak logically does seem almost without end. Curry has been held to one three just 14 times during the streak, and 11 of those came last season. Plus, he can use his handle to get his own shot whenever he wants. “The way he makes them is totally different from Kyle,” Skiles said. “Kyle is sprinting off screens and it’s possible you could switch out and maybe take some away from him, whereas Steph, there are so many of them off the dribble and from 30 feet and fading away. … He’d just have to be off that night, and that certainly doesn’t happen very often.” … The Mavericks have played 10 overtime contests this season. All of them have come since Dec. 1 and eight have been in their last 25 games. Only Utah and Orlando have played as many as eight overtime games all season. … Pacers All-Star forward Paul George is 2-16 all-time in Miami, including two losses this season where his team blew fourth-quarter leads. “It’s the same story every time we’re here,” he said after Tuesday’s setback. “We control the game for so long and then it’s always late in the game where it gets away from us. It’s always been the story and really our history here.” Indiana and Miami could very likely be first-round playoff foes. … Clippers center DeAndre Jordan leads the NBA with 1.90 points per shot. In Tuesday’s win over the Rockets, Jazz forward Gordon Hayward averaged 4.0 points per shot. He made 6-of-7 shots, including three 3-pointers, and 13 free throws. …
Trivia Answer: Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett. … Happy 48th Birthday, Chucky Brown, and Happy 40th Birthday, Vonteego Cummings, the only two living NBA players born on Sadie Hawkins Day. … Very proud of the East Hampton (CT) freshmen, who went 13-4 this season. Now we’ll expect more.
Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.