By Rodrigo Verney, April 14 2021—
In a recent interview with the New York Times, hall-of-famer Kevin Garnett talked extensively about his thoughts on the state of the NBA today, challenging many opinions that fans have of the league and its future. The Gauntlet interviewed Katie Upham from the Dinos Women’s Basketball team and Head Coach Daniel Vanhooren from the Dinos Men’s Basketball team to gather their perspectives on the topics brought up by Garnett’s statements.
The Gauntlet: Kevin Garnett declared that today’s NBA is harder on the defense than it has ever been since hand checking was banned. What are your thoughts on it?
Katie Upham: “I would agree. Back in the 90’s the game was a lot more physical. There were a lot cheaper shots and bruisers. These guys wouldn’t be able to play in today’s league, they would get fouled out before the half. I would say it became harder to guard the guards — especially at the three-point line — because they can shoot so well.”
Daniel Vanhooren: “It does always make it harder on the defender. It takes away a bit of that physicality or strength where you can control the other guy’s hips. When you can’t do that, it becomes a contest of athleticism. It becomes more exciting for the fans in many ways. Hand checking can slow a game down and it does give an advantage to the defender. With Kevin’s statement, it is correct, it does make it harder for the defender, but it does make it better for the basketball game.”
G: Although Garnett believes that the league is in good hands, there is a lot of criticism towards today’s game. In his regard, the league is “softer” than it used to be. What do you think about this statement?
KU: “Yes and no. I think there is a lot more flopping going on. For the most part, it definitely got softer. Two decades ago, the game was a lot more [physically] demanding. The league was dominated by bigs, really. Now is more of a point guard game. There is a lot less post ups and a lot more pick and roll.”
DV: “In what way [do] you mean softer? I don’t think “softer” is appropriate to use. We can talk about not being as tough as it was in the 80’s and 90’s — when Michael Jordan was playing and when the Detroit Pistons were the “bad boys.” They brought a physicality to the game that took away from what would be Michael Jordan’s capabilities in that playoff run. You saw some changes develop as a result. Players got stronger, there were a lot of changes in the weight room and in what we do to train athletes. With regard to flopping, I see that in every sport. It will come and go. That is up to each individual player.”
G: Kevin Garnett has shown some resistance about forcing high schoolers to go to college to become eligible for the NBA — granted he got in the league when he was 18 years old. With the rumors of the league re-accepting teenagers for the coming years, do you believe that Garnett is right? Do you believe 18-year-olds should be allowed to enter the league?
KU: “I think it would be beneficial. I don’t believe that kids have to go to college to be eligible if they choose not to. If their body is ready, they should be able to play. That’s how it always was.”
DV: “It’s difficult for an eighteen-year-old to join [the NBA]. It’s also hard numbers-wise. I think it is a good thing for kids to go to college. If the league is going back to that, they should provide some education opportunities when [recruits] join. You are an 18-year-old suddenly making millions. That is not easy to manage. They rely on a lot of people around them and sometimes these people are not as reliable as they seem to be. I can see why Garnett stated that it worked for him, but if we were to ask a number of 18-year-olds, they might say that it was important to take the time to have the education necessary around their finances.”
G: Many fans believe that Garnett’s more dominant style would control today’s league. In your thoughts, if Shaquille O’Neal or Kevin Garnett was in today’s NBA, would they dominate?
KU: “In today’s game there are a lot more three [pointer] being shot. The [point guards] and the [centres] can shoot them. Since the guards are so good at shooting threes, it forces every team to [switch defensive schemes]. The game just evolved in a way that those [centers] are shooting a lot more threes. It’s a more spread offense. They would dominate in the [lowpost], but I think the game has just evolved.”
DV: “I think there is a place for those players. Kevin [Garnett] had more guard skills and could shoot the ball from the perimeter a bit better than Shaquille O’Neal. So, from a size perspective you can see a player like Kevin Durant being able to do a bit of both in today’s league. I do think those two players would be dominant today. I would agree with Kevin Garnett on this regard.”
G: In the spirit of innovation, much has been said about adding a four-point line, or spots like the ones we saw at the three-point contest — with people like Temeka Johnson, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. Do you believe that’s a good idea?
KU: “There are players in the league today that have to be guarded when they pass half court because they can shoot from [past halfcourt] and they can be efficient — which is absolutely a difference in the game today. I would rather them not bring in the four-point shot. It already is a nightmare for defense as it is. They would take advantage of it”
DV: “I’m a traditionalist — I would say no. Just because people become good at it, that doesn’t mean we should change it. The game is exciting enough. People have to look at [Johnson, Curry and Lillard] as exceptions to the rule. They are unbelievable at what they do — that’s fun to watch. To give them an extra point would just eliminate the players — with length and size — that are capable of showing us other things.”
G: As a bonus round, if you had to make an all-time defenders’ team who would you put on it? What about a defensive team using today’s stars?
All Time: Kawhi Leonard, Gary Payton, Bobby Jones, Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. Her sixth man would be David Robinson.
Today ‘s league: Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert, Marcus Smart, Anthony David and LeBron James — she would bench Giannis Antetokounmpo.
All Time: Kawhi Leonard, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. His sixth man would be Patrick Ewing.
Today’s league: Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, LeBron James. He left his fifth spot open.