Beneficiary of No-Hand Checking

As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, has most certainly been the case for Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors as they’ve gotten off to the second best start in a season in NBA history with a 14-0 record.

In fact, they have a chance to make some history this weekend by tying the all-time best start to a season by reaching 15-0 set by the 1993-94 Houston Rockets who eventually went on to win the NBA championship that season lead by Hakeem Olajuwon.

They can accomplish this feat by beating the Denver Nuggets on Sunday November 22nd at 8:00 pm Eastern time at the Pepsi Center.

What stands out even more during this historic run by the Warriors is the exceptional individual play of Stephen Curry. To put it simply, Stephen Curry is playing out of his mind, and it has been quite an experience for the NBA, his opponents, fans, and the sports world as a whole.

Stephen Curry is currently averaging: 33.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, and 5.6 apg while shooting a mesmerizing 44% from beyond the arc.  Not too shabby considering his team is also leading the league in scoring with 114.3 ppg.

His most impressive work so far might just be his performance against the Clippers on Thursday night where he lead a comeback from a 23-point deficit, in which he scored 40 points on 11 of 22 shooting, and 8 of 9 shooting from distance, also leading his team with 11 rebounds (Ezeli, Bogut, and Speights should be ashamed of themselves).

All in all, it’s safe to say that Curry is the hottest player in the NBA right now and his stock is only rising with each game.

Although Curry is clearly the best basketball player in the NBA right now and Golden Sate is thriving exponentially, it is not nearly as clear as to why this is happening. Consequently there are a variety of factors that are contributing to this, but there is one that stands out above all to me; Stephen Curry is benefiting from the modern NBA rules that propels and enables his game to thrive with little resistance.

But wait! You may ask "what does the NBA rule change have to do with Stephen Curry’s greatness?" Don’t worry I’m going to fill you in!

Primarily, Curry is enjoying the benefit of playing in the modern day NBA where he enjoys the liberty and freedom of doing seemingly whatever he wants without enduring many negative repercussions. Furthermore, in this current climate, of seldom physicality, flagrant fouls, and a foul call for almost anything and everything, Curry has had the privilege of not having to endure the brutal and intense physicality of his predecessors.

Many pundits, experts, and analysts would argue, as do I, that the NBA has facilitated and enabled his style of play and in a sense separates him from a previous era of players that did similar things with far more barriers and obstacles.

In the 2004-05 season the NBA introduced a number of other rules, some new rules to curtail and prevent hand checking, clarify blocking fouls, and defensive three seconds to open up the game more.

Coincidentally, this was the same season that the infamous “Malice at the Palace” Pistons-Pacers brawl took place on November 19, 2004 which essentially signified the end of an era.

 Ballhandlers of the past was force to deal with hand-checking, a style of defense that allowed the defenders to touch the body of ball-handlers, entering their dribbling space without consequences of a foul being called. ( Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA)

Ballhandlers of the past was force to deal with hand-checking, a style of defense that allowed the defenders to touch the body of ball-handlers, entering their dribbling space without consequences of a foul being called. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA)

From that point on, what became increasingly clear was that an alarm had gone off in the minds of NBA heads and league operators and some major changes were about to be implemented -- the aforementioned one being a major one. The NBA was going to deviate from a more physical and brutish style of play that had permeated during the latter half of the 20th century, and instead adapt a more finesse style of play.

The main reason for this was that the former limited-scoring, and the league saw this as problem to the fans, while the latter allowed far more scoring which would provide more entertainment and revenue for the league. 

In essence, the NBA began to perceive that their brand was being tainted and threatened. The brawl just helped to magnify this belief and make it more glaring, and giving the NBA more fuel and a reason to effect some changes.

The early 2000s was the last residue we had of that tough-intense physical play we enjoyed in the 80s and 90s, with the “Bad Boy Pistons”, the New York Knicks, and the dominance of the Chicago Bulls. In my opinion, this was when the NBA effectively died as man’s game and became a boy’s game. 

As I stated earlier, Curry is playing in an NBA where it is far easier to dominate offensively compared to when his predecessors like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, The Larry Bird, and Hakeem Olajuwon dominated defenders. With that in mind, I feel it appropriate to compare him to none other than the GOAT Michael Jordan. 

During the early part of Michael Jordan’s career, he encountered what I like to call “the 3-year Pistons roadblock”. From 1988-90 Michael Jordan lead his Chicago Bulls to the Conference finals where he had to face the infamous “Bad Boy” Pistons and went 0-3 in that span.

This team consisted of many NBA greats such as: Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Mark Aguire, etc.

Michael Jordan endured the most physically and daunting stretch of his career, as he was rendered ineffective and helpless against the Bad Boy Pistons.  They employed the “Jordan Rules” method, double or triple-teaming Jordan nearly every time he touched the ball. Also they would hack, elbow, shove almost every drive he made to the basket, which took its toll on him. 

 What Foul? (Ap Photo) 

What Foul? (Ap Photo) 

However, after 3 years of humiliation Michael spent the 1990 offseason in the gym lifting weights and getting stronger and more durable so he could take the punishment of the Pistons and even dish out some of his own.

Subsequently, in the 1991 season Jordan finally got his revenge on the Pistons and went on to lead the Bulls to their first NBA championship.

Before this starts to seem like a useless NBA history lesson, let me get to the point. Stephen’s Curry’s plight is unlike Jordan’s or any earlier star player for that matter, because he doesn’t have to face that same beat-you-up defense. He will never have to endure a grueling “Bad Boy” Pistons series or a 1990s New York Knicks, because the current NBA structure won’t allow for it. This is true now more than ever; especially with the heavy fines players receive for even a semblance of violent physical contact.

In fact, it seems as if even one passes gas in today’s game they’ll get called for a technical (just ask Rasheed Wallace or Demarcus Cousins).

So even if a player wanted to lay out Stephen curry or give him a hard elbow here or there, they would be hearing from the NBA head office the next morning or so.

It is equally important to note that none of these realities are Curry’s fault. He can not choose the era that he plays in and dictate the rules as he deems fit. All he can do is to simply continue to operate within the framework and mandates that have been facilitated by the NBA and excel within it like he’s been doing.

Even in today’s game, Stephen Curry is a rare specimen. Possessing the unique ability to shoot from almost anywhere past half court, while also being able to create off the dribble and drive to the cup if he needs to.

He has slight a frame and is the anti-thesis of guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose who are bulkier, stronger, and attack the rim with reckless abandon; although, they do not own the shooting prowess of Stephen Curry.

To me this dynamic will be interesting as I believe this season will be a two horse race between Curry and Westbrook for MVP. 

Personally I’m a fan of tough hard-nose basketball from a previous era and I feel at times that today’s game could use a much-needed “blast from the past”, but as we all can see the current NBA game is designed for players like Stephen Curry.