By now you’ve probably heard that Oscar Robertson, one of the all-time great players, was critical of Stephen Curry’s game and the way basketball is played these days.
Robertson said, in essence, that one of the reasons Curry shoots so well and scores so many points is because defenses in the NBA have no idea how to guard him, that coaches don’t know what they’re doing.
It turned out to be bad timing for Robertson — though Curry certainly had something to do with that — because the Warriors guard went out and scored 46 points in a 121-118 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Saturday. Curry went 12-for-16 from 3-point range.
Here’s the whole thing: “Curry has shot well because of what’s going on in basketball today. In basketball today, it’s almost like if you can dunk or make a 3-point shot, you’re the greatest things since sliced bread. … There have been some great shooters in the past, but here again, when I played … if you shot outside and hit it, the next time I’m going to be up on top of you. I’m going to pressure you with three-quarters, half-court defense. But now they don’t do that. These coaches do not understand the game of basketball as far as I’m concerned.”
When I really think about this quote, I think Robertson was far less critical of Curry than he was about the game itself right now. I thought Robertson got it half right. …
Robertson has a point when he talks about failed coaching in today’s game. I’m not sure there is a great defensive mind out there when it comes to defending the 3-point shot. In general, I think 3-point shooting and 3-point offense is light years ahead of where the game is defensively.
For a long period of time there seemed to be a group of old-school coaches or even simply traditional coaches that didn’t pay credence to the 3-point shot as it was coming more and more into being. They didn’t pay it the respect it deserved. They discouraged their team from taking it and they never really bothered with how to defend it. They never dreamed the 3-pointer could be the foundation of a team’s philosophy – and be able to win with it.
We went through a long period of time where “Get out to the 3-point shooter” was the extent of the defensive philosophy against the 3. In fact, I’m sure that’s still as far as some coaches go to defend it. To that extent, Robertson has a point.
Where Robertson short-changed Curry though was the part about “being on top of you” the possession after making a 3-pointer. That’s simply not fair to Curry as a basketball player. Robertson either believes or makes it seem that the majority of Curry’s 3-pointers are uncontested – or that he’s just sitting perched behind the line waiting for the ball to come to him.
We know that’s not true. Even if 3-point defense is behind 3-point shooting and 3-point offense, you can’t possibly be watching the Warriors these days and not acknowledge Curry hits many contested 3-pointers. There are plenty of times where Curry is being defended, and even focused on, where he can still get his shot off.
Curry doesn’t just catch and shoot. He doesn’t just come off screens. He doesn’t just find an open area in transition. The guy does all of that, but he can also beat you 1-on-1 now, either beyond the line or inside it.
I understand the older generation not liking the way the game is played now, the propensity of 3-point shooting, etc. But you can’t hold it against Stephen Curry because this happens to be the game he’s dominating.
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