The Golden State Warriors have quickly become the gold standard of the NBA by following up their 2014-15 championship season with a pursuit of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' record of 72 wins.
Yet one of the game's legends, Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, is taking the Warriors' accomplishments with a grain of salt. On Thursday, he spoke with ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike (via Matt Moore of CBS Sports):
If I've got a guy who's great shooting the ball outside, don't you want to extend your defense out a little bit? I just don't think coaches today in basketball understand the game of basketball. They don't know anything about defenses. They don't know what people are doing on the court. They talk about analytical basketball and stuff like that.
They double-teamed me an awful lot during my career. I look at games today, and they'll start a defense at the foul line. When I played, they were picking you up when you got the ball inbounds. So it's a different strategy about playing defense.
Robertson, of course, was referring to guard Stephen Curry, who is smashing the record book when it comes to three-point shooting. He's on pace to make over 300 threes this year, which would beat the record of 286, which he set last season.
On Thursday night, Curry set another record against the Orlando Magic:
But Robertson says the way the game is played is responsible for Curry's success:
He's shot well because of what's going on in basketball today. In basketball today, it's almost like if you can dunk or make a 3-point shot, you're the greatest thing since sliced bread. ... When I played years ago, if you shot a shot outside and hit it, the next time I'm going to be up on top of you. I'm going to pressure you with three-quarters, half-court defense. But now they don't do that. ... [Modern-day teams] run one play. Well, maybe two plays. They've got a high-pick with the center, then the shooters run baseline trying to get open with blocks from the forwards. I mean that's it. You don't see hardly any reverse plays at all, no double screens, no weak side and whatnot.
This sounds like another case of an NBA alumnus trying to downplay accomplishments achieved in the modern era. Robertson changed the game with his stellar play on both ends of the floor on his way to 12 All-Star selections. In 1961-62, he became the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double.
He's still present in the NBA record book, ranking 11th all time in scoring and sixth in assists.
However, an argument could be made that Robertson's opponents were not as athletic, their games not as polished as those of today's players. There also wasn't extensive scouting, and opposing teams could not break down hours of film. Robertson, though, helped build the league to what it is today.
This is what happens when time passes: The game changes, and teams find new formulas for success. Perhaps Robertson will realize that and appreciate more what Curry and the Warriors are doing.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.