Jalen Rose calls them “hoooold me back” fights – when two guys act like they want to fight, but all they are looking for is someone to hold them back. If you followed his work, a clip of Kevin Garnett would often appear in the background while he’s talking about it. Kenyon Martin knows why – he called him “a miniature chihuahua in a Dobermann’s body.”
In a story on BasketballNews.com, Martin dived into the death of the enforcer. I’m usually not very interested in retired players explaining how they were tougher than kids these days. We get more than enough self-praise from current NBA players. But Martin’s piece is different – there is nuance and self-awareness. He understands a lot of physicality is a result of rule changes and pinpoints the period in which the tide started to turn.
“I witnessed this shift during the last three years of my NBA career. During my two seasons with the New York Knicks and my cup of coffee with the Milwaukee Bucks, there were a few instances where I committed (what I thought were) hard fouls, but they would walk over to the scorer’s table and announce that it was a Flagrant 1. After that happened a few times, I remember thinking, ‘Where did this come from?! Things are changing.‘”Kenyon Martin, BasketballNews.com
Another reason Martin feels contributed to the enforcer’s death is the fact players in the league today don’t know how to fight. He goes on to elaborate they’ve been in the spotlight since a very young age, and never got in a situation where they had to learn how to fight, “These guys don’t want to fight because they can’t fight.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Yes, there’s a level of physicality and competitiveness needed to be a good player. Sometimes, that can lead to sparks flying. But I don’t need guys coming to blows to convince me they are all in and competitive. I do agree with Martin when he calls out players who are flopping like crazy and looking for a foul call.
You should be trying to score, and if the only thing the defender can do is foul you, great. But if you start a play with a “let me flop like hell,” we are doing something wrong. Given the way guys are playing (and refs are calling) – we are doing something wrong.
The idea isn’t to bring back fistfights or 88-79 games. But there’s a level of contact that has to be allowed, and we need to get foul hunting and flopping out of the game ASAP.