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.”
(If you’re not familiar, which I can’t believe how you wouldn’t be, it’s the move where KD baits the defender to stick his hand close and then swings his arms up drawing a shooting foul.)
Last night against the Warriors, Durant got two calls with it. One in the fourth quarter on a 3-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.
So as you might imagine, Golden State Warrior coach Keith Smart was not a fan of the move. He told the AP: “That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “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? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”
Who has the right to space? Are you kidding me? What does that even mean? If Thabo 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 Keith Smart saying that shouldn’t be a foul? I mean, 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 makes it easier for contact to be created. No longer a foul either? I understand Smart’s point and surely he was miffed about the call in that situation, but a foul is a foul. That’s a league emphasis. A foul is a foul no matter when it’s called.
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 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 he gave last night. As long as they say I can do it, I’ll do it.
(Side note: I loved listening to KD describe it last night how he sees players aware of the move but almost can’t stop themselves for sticking their hands in there. KD was gesturing it too moving his hand in and out. I can only picture the mental battle going on for a poor defender trying to guard Durant.)
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. Look at the picture at the top. LeBron knew it was coming so he put his hands behind his back. 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. Like I said, how can you possibly say that’s not a foul? And 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. Like I said, you want to take away pump fakes too?