Recently against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with it. One in the fourth quarter on a three-pointer on Dorell Wright, and then a big one in overtime on David Lee, which gave KD three shots and put OKC up one with a minute left.
As you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move, saying afterward, “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player. If the player’s going to bait you into a foul — and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it — but … who has the right to the space?”
Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo Sefolosha gets up super-tight on Monta Ellis — like really tight, touching even — and Ellis puts the ball on the floor and drives hard around him, and Thabo can’t move his feet fast enough, thus picking up a blocking foul, is Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul?
Who has the right to the space?
Ellis created the contact, Thabo was just playing defense. Right? Or what about a pump fake? That’s baiting a defender into the air and making it easier for contact to be created. No longer a foul, either? I understand Smart was miffed about the call in that situation, but a foul is a foul. That’s a league emphasis.
And I don’t deny it’s sort of a cheap, tacky play to use. It’s almost like calling a charge in pickup. It’s legal, but kind Kevin Durant can thank Desmond Mason for a good number of points. Back in 2008, the Thunder’s first season in Oklahoma City, the former Oklahoma State star taught Durant the crafty “rip move.”
of frowned upon, I guess. But how is it different that in football a quarterback intentionally underthrowing his receiver, forcing a safety to run into him and draw pass interference? Isn’t that just a smart play? Isn’t that just taking advantage of the rules?
Actually, that’s exactly how KD sees it.
“They’ve said it’s a legal play, so I’m going to keep doing it until they tell me I can’t,” Durant said after the game. “That’s when I’ll stop.”
I remember Kenyon Martin being asked about it earlier in the season, too, after Durant got the Nuggets a few times with it. Martin said he’d like to “take the rip move out of basketball” and that he doesn’t think it’s playing basketball. I asked Durant about Martin’s comments, and KD basically gave the same answer: As long as they say he can do it, he’ll do it.
I can’t imagine actually re-examining the rip move. A defender makes contact with a shooter’s arms on a shot. How could that now not be a foul? Can you really make a ruling on how a player must go up for a shot? “No more swinging your arms up to shoot!” It’s simple: You don’t like getting called for it, back off. Don’t stick your hand in there. Just move your feet if you want to guard Durant. You can’t start penalizing a smart offensive tactic.
Really, the rip move is an absolutely necessary move for Durant. Defenders try and crowd him. They try and get right up on him and take away his drive and ability to shoot over the top. With leniency on contact in those situations, especially when KD puts the ball on the floor, having something like the rip move is an equalizer. It’s a way to force defenders to back off. Kind of like a pitcher throwing a high hard one inside every now and then. You can’t crowd Durant’s plate. And if you do, he’ll tag you with the rip.
I’m sure the NBA Competition Committee will have a discussion about it in the offseason because a couple players and coaches have brought it up. But I can’t see any change in it. What’s the punishment for doing it? A turnover? Offensive foul? Jump ball? Just not calling an obvious foul a “foul” anymore?
Taking away a legal tactic from an offensive player is just ridiculous.
Young is the founder of DailyThunder.com.