Chris Rock is a comedian who generally says things that make people go, “Damn, that’s so TRUE” while laughing hysterically. He recently filmed a birthday video for Mark Jackson, which was transcribed by Diamond Leung of the Bay Area Media Group.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Rock said before starting to joke. “You watch the games, and you go, ‘Oh so now Steph Curry’s going to play defense for the white man. Couldn’t play it for the brother. Now he’s like Dennis Rodman.’
“Couldn’t do it for you. Yeah, everybody’s boxing out now. Couldn’t do it for a black man. Ooh, they play some defense for the white man, don’t they? Ooh, they play some good defense for the white man.”
On the surface, Rock’s comments have that familiar “Damn, that’s so TRUE” ring to them. The Warriors are basically the same team (plus Shaun Livingston) as the squad Mark Jackson took to the playoffs twice. However, under the stewardship of Steve Kerr the Warriors are winning over 80% of their games and Curry has received plaudits for his defense since the beginning of the season.
Rock’s comments were funny, mostly because they were delivered in that special Rockian way. The only issue is that his premise is 100% wrong, because Curry was simply following Jackson’s orders before Kerr came along. Jackson wanted Curry to shoot and facilitate while leaving the heavy defensive lifting to Klay Thompson. Curry is far from a troublemaker, but he repeatedly mentioned that he would’ve liked more chances to defend opposing point guards instead of covering the weaker member of each opposing team’s backcourt, which is what he did under Jackson.
One of Kerr’s first proclamations after taking the Warriors job was that Curry was an underrated defender. The man who serves as Kerr’s defensive coordinator, Ron Adams, challenged Curry to do more than play passing lanes. After some encouragement and plenty of video sessions, Curry became a guy who can play better one-on-one and team defense. Sure, his steals went up, but more importantly Curry wasn’t getting posted or crossed up on a regular basis. The result: Curry is no longer considered an easy target, and his reputation as a guy who’s helped hold some of the best point guards in the league to middling offensive numbers has helped his MVP candidacy, especially when people compare him to James Harden.
Another quibble with Rock’s jokes: the Warriors were actually a better rebounding team under Jackson. Kerr has focused more on ball movement than boxing out, which the Warriors haven’t had to do as often because they force so many turnovers and make a higher percentage of their shots than any other team in the NBA. Jackson never had problems getting his team to play hard, but the Warriors are playing a lot smarter this season under Kerr.