The Right Play

Knight’s posterizing block try would have pleased Pistons of great eras past

Brandon Knight attempted a block on a lob dunk by DeAndre Jordan.
Brandon Knight attempted a block on a lob dunk by DeAndre Jordan.
Noah Graham (NBAE/Getty)
There’s a part of me that thinks it’s incredible that the dunk over Brandon Knight by DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers has been the talk of the league for a few days. Back in the day, as some of us would say, of the Bad Boys, people challenged dunks no matter what. And, because of that, sometimes you ended up on the wrong end of a poster. But the bottom line is that was your job and if you didn’t play with that kind of courage, you probably wouldn’t get on the court.

So kudos to Brandon – he did what the Bad Boys would have done. I know for sure that two of the Bad Boys have already complimented him. Joe Dumars told him he was proud of him and wouldn’t have expected anything less and Isiah Thomas sent a message along telling him he admired his toughness. And I’m sure Brandon would make the same play again.

It was very interesting that before our game against Golden State, Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who was posterized years ago on a Tom Chambers dunk, talked about the play you have to try to make. He said he couldn’t jump, so he just tried to take a charge. But he said Brandon Knight is the kind of guy you want on your team. He admired his toughness and said he’s going to really make a difference in this league for years with that kind of courage.

We’re in the social media age, so everybody can have an initial reaction and the masses hear about it immediately. It seems like, in some ways, people react to things without even thinking about it – because they can. Anybody who criticizes Brandon, if they’d watched it a few times, thought about it for a day or two, would have come back and congratulated him on his courage and on his basketball IQ and on the fact he was trying to do the right thing for his team.

When you can jump – and we’ve seen Brandon with his share of jams this year – you have a chance, even against a great leaper like DeAndre Jordan. If you can throw him off even a hair, at worst it’s going to be a foul and he’s going to have to earn it at the free-throw line. Of course, you’re going to take the chance of looking bad and, beyond that, maybe of being injured. He was shaken up on the play, but wasn’t seriously injured – he didn’t sprain his ankle until the next game. But it takes courage and it takes selflessness and a guy who wants to help his team win, not just make himself look as good as possible.

If you’re a team that’s young and struggling and needs leadership and needs to “come together,” a play like that can make all the difference in the world and I guarantee you that every one of Brandon’s teammates admired and appreciated him for what he did and felt like, hey, next time if it happens to be me, I’ve got to step up and show that kind of toughness, courage and heart.

Basketball is a very individual game in many ways, but it’s also an incredibly great team game. Individuals, no matter how great they are, can win some games – but they can’t win championships. That’s all about teams. We’ve seen that so many times in Detroit and I’ve seen it every year I’ve been in the NBA. And team guys make plays like Brandon Knight made.

I think any time a team is struggling or going a bit sideways and one of your guys makes one of those plays – those courageous plays to give up his body for his team – it’s kind of like throwing cold water on your face. It wakes you up. I think the Pistons, even though they’re now playing shorthanded without two of their best players in Brandon and Andre Drummond, have been energized since then.

They had some lapses in Salt Lake City, but for the most part played a rock-solid game against a team fighting for a playoff spot in the West. And they played even better against Golden State, clearly a better team than the Jazz and a team that had to fight right to the wire to get a win on their home court, three time zones away.

There’s been absolutely no quit in this team and now it’s off to Portland against a team that probably won’t play in the postseason but a team that in most years would be in the playoffs. It just so happens that the Western Conference is stacked, but Portland’s a good team and that’s a tough place to play, as we all know. But I think the Pistons have a very legitimate chance to win there based upon their performances in Salt Lake City and Oakland and I think Brandon Knight inspired them in both cases with his DeAndre Jordan-challenging play against the Clippers. And poor Brandon can’t even play in this game because of his sprained ankle, but he’s with them in spirit.

I would just say this about Brandon: That’s one guy I’m almost sure is part of Joe D’s long-range plan to make the Detroit Pistons a championship-caliber team again. He is the kind of guy you need. The Pistons have won championships with two different groups and both were known for their physical and mental toughness. I would imagine that guys on both of those teams would say, Brandon Knight, c’mon over here – you can play for us.