Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Get off his lawn

So another senior citizen has shaken his bony fist at the Golden State Warriors, and no surprise this time. This time, it's one of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls doing it -- the Bulls whose 72-10 record that season is within arm's length of the Warriors, who need to go 5-1 in their last six games to go 73-9 and break the Bulls' record.

And so, let's wheel Scottie Pippen out and see what Gramps has to say about that.

Why, we'd have swept the Warriors, is what he says.

What the Blob says about that is, um, probably not.

A lot would depend on which defensive rules you were playing by, the '90s rules or the 2016 rules. Because the '90s rules were, well, different. Or to put it another way: You could cheat.

The get-off-my-lawn crowd frequently points out that NBA teams don't play defense anymore, which is why a slip of a thing like Steph Curry can get open for all those 3s. This is the usual amnesia at work, because what the get-off-my-lawn crowd forgets is how much blatantly illegal stuff you were allowed to get away with back in the day. And that was especially true in the '90s, the Decade of I Got Your Hand Checks Right Here.

You had to see it up close to realize just how much defenders were allowed to get away with in those days, something I had the opportunity to do one night in Indianapolis. I was at a Pacers game because they were playing the Bucks, and I was there to do a column on Bucks assistant Gerald Oliver, the longtime Fury coach who finally got his shot at the big time when he was 62 years old.

Anyway, my seat was within spitting distance of the floor. And I remember being astounded at how much defenders were allowed to clutch, grab and all but water-ski behind Reggie Miller while clinging to his jersey. Miller had to literally shove defenders out of the way to create space for himself.

"Where's the whistle?" I kept thinking, until I realized this was simply the way NBA teams played defense in those days.


Now, you're compelled, mostly, to play defense the correct way -- which is to say, with your feet. It's why the Old School Joes think nobody plays defense anymore. They do. And Golden State's better than most at it.

Which is why I think it's absurd to believe the '90s Bulls would sweep the Warriors, especially playing by today's rules. Because all the talk about how Steph 'n' them would score against the Bulls obscures the fact that the Bulls would have to score against them.  And that wouldn't be easy, either.

So who would win?

Probably the Bulls, because they had Michael Jordan and Golden State doesn't. But given the '95-'96 Bulls needed six games in the finals that year to beat a Seattle team that was good but hardly great, to think they'd sweep the Warriors is ... well, not terribly realistic.

Sorry, Scottie.

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