Steve Kerr critical of NBA ‘legislating defense out of the game’

Dec 26, 2023, 7:00 AM

Steve Kerr...

Head Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks with Stephen Curry #30 against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena on December 25, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic’s frequent parade to the free-throw line was a sore subject for Steve Kerr.

The Golden State coach doesn’t feel like defense gets rewarded consistently enough in today’s NBA.

Jokic overcame an off day from the field by going 18-for-18 from the free-throw line and the Denver Nuggets extended their winning streak to five games by holding off the Warriors 120-114 on Monday.

“I have no problem with the officials themselves,” Kerr said after the game. “I have a problem with the way we are legislating defense out of the game. That’s what we’re doing. The way we’re teaching officials, we’re just enabling to players to (fool) their way to the foul line. If I was a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half of that game. It was disgusting.

“It was just baiting refs into calls. But the refs have to make those calls because that’s how they’re taught.”

Jokic finished with 26 points despite a 4-of-12 showing from the floor. He set a career-high with his 18 made free throws. In all, the Nuggets were 26 of 32 from the free-throw line.

The combination of Kevon Looney and rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis took turns trying to contain Jokic, who didn’t have his customary touch around the basket. Jokic made up for it by being more aggressive and getting to the line.

“He gets fouled a lot. He gets beat up down there,” explained Jamal Murray, who scored a game-high 28 points. “It’s hard to call every foul, I understand. They can only do so much.”

Kerr said that players are “smart in this league. Over the last decade, they’ve gotten smarter and smarter. We have enabled the players and they’re taking full advantage and it’s a parade to the free-throw line. It’s disgusting to watch.”

Stephen Curry weighed in on the topic, too.

“When there’s physicality, it’s tough because it’s inconsistent at times on either side,” said Curry, who took a bit to warm up, not scoring until midway through the second quarter, but heated up to finish with 18 points. “A night like tonight, you feel like there’s physicality on one side and then kind of ticky-tack on the other and then they get into the bonus and it changes the (complexion) of the game. It’s not like we don’t foul. I’m not saying that.

“It was tough tonight, slowed the whole game down. (Jokic) made every free throw and changed the momentum, played into their hands.”

The Warriors moved to 5-2 since the indefinite suspension of Draymond Green after striking Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic in the face. Kerr said before the game that Green has mostly stayed away during his suspension. Kerr added that he has been in contact with the training staff and the coaches.

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Steve Kerr critical of NBA ‘legislating defense out of the game’