The idea of this obvious Chicago Bulls fan crediting that team with more or less inventing the idea of "taking a charge," I'm sure, won't sit well with others. Players and teams had taken charges by the boatload for years, but the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, more than any team of their generation, seemed to be just as at home standing in front of a charging offensive player with arms folded downward than they were bounding through the air for a block or swiping for a steal.
The group had to. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper and Michael Jordan helped lead the team to a league-best mark in defensive efficiency in their first full season together, but each of those men were well into their 30s at the time. Though each had it in them to make a key steal or block, as the season wore on each seemed to realize that their instincts, intellect, footwork and anticipation skills would be best served by sliding over and beating a man to his spot. Big collision, easy whistle, Chicago ball. The league grew wise soon after and adopted Chicago's mettle. It's stunk ever since.
OK, it hasn't "stunk." But the litany of block/charge calls has made for some awful ball in the years since. It's not as if dribblers are more out of control these days as they dash to the basket -- if anything they're more hesitant -- it's just that a generation's worth of defenders are willing to stay low, take the hit and get the ball for their team. Refs call it correctly, technically, and nobody seems to leave their feet anymore for a block. Which is why we're submitting an All-Star game ballot with Kendrick Perkins' name checked off 32 times later today.
Perkins isn't the best center in his conference, division or, at times, even his own team. He helps anchor a middling Oklahoma City Thunder defense with that Bulls-styled anticipation and footwork, but he's not much of a shot blocker or charge-taker. He just gets in the way, and when you stand 6-foot-10 and around 270 pounds, that tends to help. And the way he ate his lunch in full public view of God and Country on Monday night? The way he made your phone go "beep" and your Internet ask for a blow? Applaud this man.
He didn't try to take a charge. Wilt Chamberlain in his prime would have had an impossible task in keeping Blake Griffin's fingertips from the rim in that situation, but Perkins tried. He didn't wrap Griffin in a bear hug, and he didn't stand with his arms folded like a soccer player watching somebody attempt a free kick. He moved to the spot and attempted to at least prevent Griffin from scoring -- y'know, the point of actual defense? -- and nearly succeeded. Griffin was a bum spin and/or inch removed from throwing that ball off the rim hard enough to send the sphere bounding into the Bill Simmons seats, or even getting called for the offensive foul on a push-off. Please don't take that as me telling you Griffin pushed off.
He didn't. He threw down perhaps the greatest dunk of his career, or even all time. The noises made by NBA fans on a random Monday night in January, be they Clipper backers or not, will more than eclipse the collective batch of sounds we'll make on Sunday during Football's Big Game. Even if it's a great game. Honestly, go back and watch the clip. When was the last time your mouth reacted like that during a football or baseball game? Concussion-inducing hits and rally squirrels don't count.
And Perk, to his everlasting credit, took a hit of his own. And, for that, he deserves a poster. He deserves our plaudits. He deserves -- hell, we deserve -- a chance to make yet another stand in some seven-game series held once the snow melts and football is a distant memory to all save for Chris frickin' Berman. You know that Perkins wants another shot at Griffin, while also remaining satisfied with his effort and decision to slide over and attempt to defend that beast. That's the best kind of attitude and the best kind of player. A 7.1 Player Efficiency Rating be damned.
We're not asking you to give Perkins some sort of Scott Norwood-styled standing ovation. We just want more of what he brought from every big man and high-flying guard in this game. This is a league that grabs players at half court in order to deny a fast break, just on the off chance the player leading the one-on-none might miss the resulting free throw and then blow the next possession. This is a league that doesn't try to block dunks. This is a league full of heady charge-takers, and, frankly, I'm sick of it. Stop making sense, NBA. More Doug Moe, less Larry Brown.
Kendrick Perkins is as heady and cerebral as they come on the defensive end. On Monday night he got wrapped in the moment in briefly thinking he could make it his own. Blake Griffin's brilliance disabused him of that notion almost immediately. Let's hope Perkins' instincts are in the right place next time as well, in spite of Monday's brutal result.
Learn from Kendrick. Never be afraid to leave your feet.