It's now been nearly a full day since DeAndre Jordan embarrassed Brandon Knight with this monster jam, and we've already seen one contrarian take. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski used his platform to scold all of us who made jokes at Knight's expense.
As the Los Angeles Clippers crushed the Pistons on Sunday, Knight did something that surprised no one within the franchise: Between DeAndre Jordan catching a lob and dunking on Detroit, Knight leaped and tried to stop him.
For this, he's a punch line now. He's a joke. For everyone celebrating Jordan's fantastic lob dunk over a guard some 8 inches shorter and 80 pounds lighter, they've made Knight an object of ridicule. The comedian, Kevin Hart, tweeted that Jordan had been brought up on "charges of rape & aggravated assault against Brandon Knight," and tombstones declaring Knight dead were popping up on the Internet.
The message is clear to players everywhere, on every level: Run away. Hide. Don't try to take the charge. Don't try to disrupt the play. There's no reward. This is how backward the basketball culture has become, how twisted the value system.
The obvious implication? Knight made the right defensive rotation, and when it didn't work out, he got ridiculed. Ergo, other players will fail to make the right defensive rotation, which will piss off their coaches.
Except, here's the question: did Knight actually make the right rotation?
The answer is no. To be more accurate: he did, but it was too late.
That Knight contested Jordan's dunk is nice from an aggression standpoint, but if he did his job properly, the lob wouldn't even have been thrown. As you'll see in these corresponding screenshots, Knight didn't make his rotation until Jordan had already started his run to the rim. A better play would have been to anticipate Jordan's rim-run and beat him to the spot, drawing a charge or just preventing Paul from even throwing the pass with his presence.
Would that have been difficult to do? Absolutely. But it's not an altogether impossible defensive rotation to make, because proper scouting would have given Knight the knowledge to snuff out the play.
Jordan's dunk came as a result of a common Clippers play: a transition drag screen involving Jordan, Chris Paul and, occasionally, Blake Griffin or another big (in this case, Lamar Odom). As Paul dribbles down the court, Jordan will come out as if he is setting a pick. Sometimes, he'll make contact with Paul and it'll be a standard pick and roll. Sometimes, though, like in this situation, he'll fake a screen and slip to the open rim. It's a matter of reading the defense.
Here's a video compilation of this play, or similar variations, in action this year.
Stopping this play requires a five-man effort. You need Jordan's defender to not step up too high and cede the lane, of course. However, you also need your wings and guards defending the shooters in the corner to help off their man and shut off Jordan's open rolling lane to the hoop.
For example, here's the way the Raptors defended a similar play back in December.
The two wing players know that the biggest threat is Jordan rolling to the rim, so they both pinch into the lane before Jordan even starts to roll to the rim. Throw in the help of those two big men, and the play gets shut off.
Now, compare that to how the Pistons decide to defend this play.
The Pistons' big men have put Knight in an awful position by contesting the play this high, but Knight still hasn't pinched over enough given the circumstances. There is no way that his man in the corner is any sort of threat right now. Paul is the league's best point guard, but even he cannot whip an accurate cross-court pass to the opposite corner. Knowing this, and knowing that the Clippers love to set that transition drag screen for Jordan, Knight should already have both feet in the lane.
Instead, he only starts to move after Jordan begins rolling to the rim.
By then, it's far too late.
Now, is this a horrible missed rotation? On the scale of defensive mistakes, not especially. Knight's teammates made worse rotations, and this did all happen very, very fast. Coach Lawrence Frank also has to acknowledge that Knight at least didn't give up on the play and be careful how he delivers his message about this missed rotation.
Nevertheless, it was still a mistake. Knight shouldn't be lauded for "disrupting the play." He should be taught that a better rotation would have prevented the play from even happening in the first place.