The NBA six years ago literally put the ball in point guards’ hands. Frustrated the league had evolved into a physical, plodding game, a major rule change abolished hand-checking above the free-throw line.
"The game has changed big-time,” said Dallas point guard Jason Kidd. "When I came in you could hand check and hold a little bit. You could definitely be more physical with the ball-handler. Now if you just touch them it’s a foul. It definitely gives quicker guys an advantage.” New Orleans rookie point guard Darren Collison, who plays the Thunder tonight in the Ford Center, is a perfect example how the rule change has benefitted quick point guards. Collison has averaged 20.7 points and 9.8 assists since taking over for All-Star point guard Chris Paul underwent arthroscopic knee surgery five weeks ago. "You see some of the younger point guards that don’t have the bulky body be successful,” said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. "What it’s done is allow the athletic guys to use their athletic ability. "In the past, guys like Quinn Buckner, Derek Harper and Nate McMillan would put their hands on you and pretty much guide you where they wanted you to go.” It’s no coincidence the first two years after the rule change Suns point guard Steve Nash won the next two MVP awards in 2005 and 2006. Nash’s stats before and after the rule change are dramatically different. Before perimeter hand-checking was prohibited, Nash averaged 12.5 points and 6.0 assists. The past six seasons, Nash has averaged 17.2 points and 11.0 assists. "The game favors the perimeter player and the quicker players,” said Hall of Famer Larry Bird, the Indiana Pacers president. "I really don’t know how they can be guarded. What I do know is it’s a different game than when I played.” NBA general managers are drafting accordingly.