Season tips off next week, so let’s round out the preseason with the return of Keepin’ It Real.
1. New foul rules are here
The NBA is implementing new rules this season to reduce the number of fouls drawn on non-basketball moves, such as an offensive player launching into a defender, abruptly veering off path, kicking leg at an abnormal angle or his off-arm hooking defenders. “Marginal” contact on these non-basketball moves will be a no-call, while “more than marginal” contact will be ruled as an offensive foul.
The two masters of these types of sucker moves got a first-hand taste of the new rules in the preseason:
As an old-school guy who thinks “fishing for fouls” means driving hard to the basket and taking way-more-than-marginal contact like Allen Iverson did, I’m loving the new rules. So is Steve Kerr, who had the perfect take on the matter:
“The game needs it. I say the same thing all the time. If we’re making calls in the NBA that would literally start fights in a pickup game because they’re so egregious and non-basketball-related — in other words, if I come off a screen in a pickup game and literally hook your arm, flail my arms and then go up for a shot and call a foul, a fight is going to ensue. My whole thing is if we’re making those calls in the NBA, the greatest league in the world, when we couldn’t get through a pickup game, then we’re doing something wrong.
“The defense, I think, has to be given a chance to guard. It’s never been harder to guard with all the shooting. I think the league recognized things had gone a little too far over the top giving every benefit of the doubt to the offensive guy. So eliminating some of these BS plays is really big.” (h/t The Athletic)
Not this year, Steph, James, Luka, and Trae!
2. Kyrie’s not retiring… yet
In an Instagram Live session last Wednesday, Kyrie Irving announced that he has no intention of retiring after the Nets decided that he will not be joining the team until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
He also talked about a bunch of other things which I will not comment on because it’s difficult to take a flat-Earther seriously. There are meritorious policy debates to be had about the ethics of imposing mandates as opposed to nudges, but I’m pretty sure that Kyrie isn’t a voracious consumer of the scientific literature (if you’re interested, you can start here and here). I wouldn’t, however, fault him for his stance because, well, Hanlon’s razor.
The most entertaining part of Kyrie’s video wasn’t even his monologue. An ex-NBA player chimed in on the live feed and practically declared Kyrie to be a godsend.
That’s right, Stephon Marbury, Mr. Vaseline himself, thinks Kyrie is uniting vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals together. WTF? I swear, Marbury is the proto-Kyrie. Not just in terms of game, but the grey matter too.
3. The best part of the Ben Simmons saga is Doc Rivers telling Rich Paul to go f*ck himself
Okay, Doc didn’t quite say that. But in a lengthy behind-the-scenes piece by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, he reported that Doc lost patience over the situation and cursed out at Rich Paul, “It’s in your f–king contract!” At Paul’s home.
Now, when a man disrespects you at your own home and you come flying back clandestinely to Philly with your client because Doc and Daryl Morey called your bluff, I mean, I don’t know how you can roll in the deep with Adele like that.
4. The Lakers’ winless preseason
It’s just the preseason! Starters didn’t play normal minutes! Let’s not jinx it!
5. The Hornets’ 68-point loss
The only thing that keeps me tuned in for blowout games is the possibility of the winning team doubling the other team’s score (seriously, mental computations keep the brain sharp). Unfortunately, the feat is often lost once the winning team hits the 70-point mark. Not last Thursday though, when the Mavs pulverized the Hornets, 127-59. For those keeping count, that’s double plus the Hornets owner’s Olympic jersey number.
Naturally, Twitter had a field day roasting Michael Jeffrey Jordan:
Since it’s the preseason, I’m going with the last one.
6. The 2021-22 season might be a wrap thanks to the Greek Freak’s new jump shot
There is one news that is not getting enough coverage but may have the most significant title implication: Giannis Antetokounmpo spent the summer working on his jump shot and the preseason results look promising.
He put everyone on notice when he got extended minutes against the Jazz:
And showed the same form yesterday against the Mavs:
It’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but his quicker release and more natural rhythm are certainly noticeable. He’s not suddenly Kevin Durant or anything, and I’d caution against focusing too much on the threes he made. Instead, it’s the midrange game—adding a reliable pull-up and extending the range of the post fadeaway he developed last year—that deserves closer attention. It’ll keep defense honest and render the ‘Giannis Wall’ defensive scheme obsolete, making him virtually unstoppable.
If his improvement carries on to the regular season, it’ll be bad news for everyone outside the Deer District. KD and James Harden might be left with no other choice but to drag Kyrie to the nearest vaccine center.