Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant has become adept at executing the “rip” move, and it has left some defenders feeling ripped off.
An offensive player utilizes the move when he is closely guarded by a defender who has his arms or hands extended in front. The offensive player “rips” the ball quickly to the left or right, trying to get his hands or arms entangled with the defender's and drawing a foul while in a shooting motion.
The sequence often looks clumsy when the offensive player is fouled (or acts as such). If a player is fouled and able to get the shot off, the number of free throws depends on whether or not the shot is made. When no foul is called, the ball flutters harmlessly out of the shooter's hands and usually results in a turnover, or the shot is a brick.
It's a risky move that can be hard to sell to game officials. There is pressure on the shooter to get the shot off and/or draw a foul; pressure on the defender to not foul or not get caught; and pressure on the referee to make the proper call.
Durant exploded for 44 points on Christmas against Denver, with a handful of points coming compliments of the rip. Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin, who was whistled for a rip foul while guarding Durant, said the move should be banned.
Martin was not disrespecting Durant, the referees, nor anyone who uses the rip move — which happens to include teammate Chauncey Billups, who was stationed in the neighboring locker while Martin spoke inside Oklahoma City Arena.
“Personally, I think they should take it out of basketball, but since Chauncey does it a lot, I'll be a little biased,” Martin said, smiling. “I don't think that's playing basketball, but it's part of the game. You've got to abide by it and you've got to know who you're playing.
“I think (Durant) does an excellent job, no matter where your hand is. He's so long. No matter if you have your hand back or not, he finds a way to do it.”
Durant responded: “That's not my call. They give it to me. I really never thought about it like that. When a guy does it on me, I don't think it's a good basketball play. But when I do it, it is. But like I said, it's not my call. Once they take it out the game, that's when I'll stop doing it.”
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he can't imagine the rip move being banned.
“It's a foul,” Brooks said. “What are you going to do, outlaw all fouls? Just play playground basketball? A foul is a foul, any way you look at it. A lot of teams do that with Kevin because they want to use some strength against him, crowd him, get in his face. But if it's a foul, you have to call it.”
Stu Jackson is the NBA's executive vice president of basketball operations and said the rip move was discussed by league officials last offseason.
The discussion was not whether to ban the move, but rather to review officiating parameters when the rip move is used. Jackson essentially agreed with Brooks.
“He (the defender) is not entitled to stick out his leg, or his arm, at an offensive player while that player is in a shooting motion,” Jackson said. “That has always been, and will continue to be, a foul.”
Many agree the rip move originated with Utah power forward Karl Malone, who despite being 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds had an array of offensive moves while facing the basket, including the pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop and the rip move.
Ironically, San Antonio power forward Tim Duncan picked up the offensive rip move to counter Malone's “strip down” tactic on defense in which he swatted down hard at the ball.
Former Oklahoma State standout and Thunder teammate Desmond Mason taught Durant the rip move three years ago. “Desmond warned me that guys were going to get up into me on defense,” Durant said. “I saw him do it a few times and I kind of stole it from him. He's a great teacher.”
Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha has defended the league's elite players, including rip artist Kobe Bryant.
Sefolosha said he considered the rip a good move, but only when it actually draws a foul. “It's a good move because they call a foul,” Sefolosha said, “but I'm not sure it's the right call, actually.”
Because the rip move is more prevalent on the perimeter, Thunder power forward Nick Collison hasn't frequently been victimized.
“I hate it when they do it to me,” Collison said. “I understand where it's frustrating (to Martin) because it doesn't seem like a natural play. I should love it because Kevin gets the call more than anybody gets it called on us. When it happens to you, it drives you crazy.”
The rip move is not in the repertoire of all shooters because few are guarded as aggressively as Durant.
“It's not used often because if you don't get the foul, you take a bad shot,” Brooks said. “There have been times Kevin has taken that bad shot. When the defense guards you so close, that's one way to get some space.”
There is an art to drawing a foul when an offensive player uses the rip move. Is there an art to successfully defending the rip?
“Just being quick,” Sefolosha said. “Sometimes I'm quick enough to get my hands away.”
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THE â€˜RIP' MOVE
NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson, on the officiating parameters surrounding the â€œripâ€ move:
â€œYou have to call the contact. The defender is responsible for putting himself in a legally guarding position, and if he's in a position where his body is in the direct path of the offensive player and there's contact, that's going to be a defensive foul. When a player extends an arm on an offensive player as he goes into his shooting motion, that is a defensive foul because the defender is responsible for putting himself in a legally guarding position. A defender with his arm or his leg extended, if the offensive player at that point goes into his shooting motion and hits the leg, that's a defensive foul.
â€œIf the defender is in a legally guarding position and the offensive player bulls him over with a shoulder and the defender goes down, that is an offensive foul. The defender had no other choice. He was in position and the offensive player created the contact. That could be deemed an offensive foul, or perhaps a no-call.â€
Thunder forward Nick Collison:
â€œThere are a couple things in basketball where guys have figured it out. The rules say one thing, and they've taken advantage of it. It's just like the play where you know the team is going to foul and you throw it up from half court when there's no way you're trying to shoot a half-court shot at that time, but it's in the motion of your shot, so it should be a foul.
â€œI guess it has to be called, because I'd rather have the referees call it to the rules and not to their interpretation to what's going on. It frustrates me the other way when referees try to just not call what they see. If you want them to call what they see and it's part of the rules, then they've got to call it. If you pump fake and you land, and the guy comes into you, there's no way that's his natural shot, but it's the way it is. It's the rules. I'd rather have the referees call it to the letter of the rule, as opposed to having a gray interpretation.â€
Thunder coach Scott Brooks:
â€œIt's not something we ever work on. We don't work on it with Kevin (Durant).â€
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:
â€œYou can't do away with it because in certain situations it's legit, but if a player goes out of his way and it's obvious he's not really even shooting a shot, it shouldn't be called. It should be a no-call in my opinion â€¦ and I think I've seen that. I think some officials have made no-calls on players who have done that. Sometimes it's going to be called wrong, but so is a block/charge and other things. It's the nature of the beast. You can't get everything right.â€
Spurs forward Richard Jefferson:
â€œHe (Durant) is one of the first people to really use it consistently. It's something that's been done for years. Tim Duncan, I remember, as soon as a big man would put his hand out, Tim would go up and shoot it off the glass. So Tim's been doing it now for 15 years. The 3-pointer is different. If your hands are in there, that's one thing. But if you're body to body with somebody and you're in good defensive position, then I don't think it's a foul. If your hands are up on him and he gets you, then he gets you.
â€œChauncey Billups is good at doing it. It's something that's been around the league for a long time. A lot of people have done it â€¦ It's a good basketball move.â€