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Back in the day — when players spent at least three and often a full four years playing college ball — they entered the NBA more polished, finished products. Much of the player development that teams now have a specific coach and staff to focus on happened on a college campus, players hit the ground running in the NBA more steeped in fundamentals.
At least, that’s how Steve Kerr remembers it. After an ugly loss to Minnesota where his Golden State team got crushed on the boards — a concern all season — Kerr vented to reporters about the lack of boxing out by modern players.
“This is the modern NBA — guys don’t box out. It’s just the way it is. Every night on League Pass, I see the same thing. Players let guys come in from the weak side, and they think, ‘I’ll just get the rebound.’ It’s a disease that’s rampant in the NBA. The problem is, if you’re a real small team like us, then it’s going to hurt you more than it will hurt other teams…
“It’s not even like a college box out or a high school box out. In the NBA, it’s more about locating the guy and just putting your hand or your forearm in his chest, letting somebody else go chase the ball. So we were staring up at butterflies, up in the air just looking up, and guys were coming right by us…
“Most of these guys didn’t have a high school and college coach yelling at them for a combined eight straight years. It’s a different world today. And players grow up in a different way in terms of their basketball background. The detail is often the thing that is lacking…
“Players have never had more skill than they have today in my mind,” Kerr said as reporters pressed the topic. “I’m amazed by the skill level, but the little things. Getting back in transition — every night on TV, I see teams let a guy run past them in transition for a layup. We do it. Every team does it. If you did that 25 years ago, your coach would take you out and he wouldn’t play you again. Now everybody does it, and as a coach, you can’t take everybody out. So there are certain parts of the game that are just different; players aren’t as locked in on those things. I think just because it’s a different time.”
There certainly are NBA players that focus on boxing out — both Lopez brothers are great examples — and others that do get back in transition. The NBA is not devoid of fundamentals, but players have to pick a lot of that up once they are in the league because it doesn’t get drilled into them the same way on the AAU circuit and in one year in college.
There’s a little “you know, back in my day…” about all this from Kerr, but he is more measured about it than many (cough *Shaq, Barkley* cough). The game is different, but the best players and the best teams are still detail-oriented and focused.
The Warriors were that kind of team when the role players around their stars — guys like Shaun Livingston, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala — were veterans who had been around the game for longer. Now it’s James Wiseman and Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall and Kelly Oubre — younger players without that veteran savvy and some of the fundamentals drilled into them. That has to frustrate Kerr as he watches his team lose to the Timberwolves despite 37 from Stephen Curry. So he vented a little on Thursday night.
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Steve Kerr frustrated by the lack of boxing out, other details in modern NBA originally appeared on NBCSports.com