What happened to the NBA I loved?

I’m not a purist, far from it, but I still mind it when people start playing fast and loose with the ever-changing rules of this game. It’s gotten to the point where it doesn’t even register with the brain when you see three steps before a layup, it’s like that’s how its always been and we should just be okay with it. Cradling the ball, the extra-long hesitation move, the spin-move where you switch your pivot foot, the hop-step after two steps, these are just becoming too common and too accepted to be ignored any further. I wouldn’t sound any horns if this was restricted to only traveling, fact is that the referees and the NBA have let the game morph into a watered-down copy of the original.

The Charge

Somebody please give me a definition of what constitutes an offensive foul. My understanding is that the defender needs to be “set” outside the circle well before the offensive player makes contact in an aggressive manner. If that’s not the definition, they need to change it to be that and enforce it like the Chinese do the one-child policy. There were three offensive fouls called against the Magic and Cavaliers in Game 2 when the offensive player was on his way to the rim and a defender snuck his way into the path and drew the charge. The offensive player was not out of control, reckless or even aggressive, he was simply making his way to the rim when somebody basically cut him off without giving him any chance to react. The “without any chance to react” part is what I have a problem with.

If a defender is going to “sacrifice” his body by coming into the offensive player’s path, the officials better consider that he’s done so after the offensive player’s momentum has committed him in a certain direction. It’s ridiculous to call a foul on a guy driving to the rim who is met with a player who realizes too late that he’s out of position and steps in whilst the guy with the ball is committed. Most of these charges are non-calls and wouldn’t have been called in the 80’s and 90’s. The worst is perhaps when the defender is contesting a drive by playing along the offensive player and falls backward to fake like he was in position. The official hasn’t seen any defensive contact but seems a man on the floor and is almost compelled to go the other way.

If the NBA just tightened up by replacing these charges with non-calls and calling the traveling/carrying, they’d even things out and make the game more competitive and enjoyable to watch.

The Make-Up Call

The most embarrassing occurrence of them all. This is like the official saying, “Hey c’mon, we’re trying to f**k both team equally, give us some credit”. No, you do not get credit for that. Maybe if you did a better job of disguising your pathetic way of “balancing” the scales instead of making up for your previous blown call by blowing another call ON THE VERY NEXT PLAY. The NBA needs to monitor make-up calls a lot more closely because as the old adage goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. My favorite is the back-to-back illegal screen calls, those are just classic.

Playing for the foul

Before you give me a whole lecture on how drawing the foul is an art let me tell you I’m not against the Turkoglu’s of the world who try that constantly on the perimeter. No, that’s okay, what’s not cool is when you “drive” to the rim, get cut ff, and then flail your limbs in the air like somebody hacked them off. First up, if somebody fouled you on the arms your arms wouldn’t go flying in the air, they’d stay where they were or even be a little lower. If your arms are going straight up it likely means the defender got all ball! Whenever somebody pulls these kinds of stunts they’re playing the officials rather than the game which is never fun.

Our own Chris Bosh is a great example. Whenever he attacks the rim he knows he’s going to get forced into a tough shot because of a seal-off but that doesn’t stop him trying to execute the same predictable move. He’s relying on the official to ignore the fact that he’s not in a position of advantage and hopefully buy the theory that he was “in the act of shooting” when he really was “in the act of salvaging whatever the hell that move was”. Note to referees: don’t buy this.

Too many timeouts

The game is too long. Actually, it’s not too long, it’s just that it could be shorter and more enjoyable. And we’d be spared two minute long Drag Me To Hell trailers. Here’s what I’m proposing: No matter what the time-out situation is leading up to the final 2:30, each team only gets 1 timeout from that point onwards. Deal with it. I just shaved twenty minutes off a game.

What’s up with flagrants?

Flagrant 1 and flagrant 2 fouls both result from “excessive contact”. The only difference is that the latter is called when the contact is “intentional”. I don’t have a problem with making those distinctions because all they’re trying to do is weed out malicious play which is important if you want to protect your players. My issue is with flagrant 1 which is sought by players and coaches too often for my liking. The good ‘ol “hard foul” seems to now fall in a gray area which announcers and even players debate and mull over. If a player is coming down the lane for a dunk and you angle him hard so that it’s hard body-on-body contact and he falls awkwardly, that’s not a flagrant, that’s just a statement that we’d rather you make free throws. I was watching the Bulls-Pistons game on NBA TV and I fully believe that if Bill Laimbeer played in this era he’d prefer to retire.

The three-second violation

Probably the most shouted out comment by players is “Three seconds!” and I can’t blame them. This is an out-dated rule which officials call on a person-by-person basis which is probably the right thing to do. I have no problem with Shaq backing you down for seven seconds in the paint. I have a problem with Shaq parking himself in the paint while he waits for his guards to give him the ball. Two very different things that both result in three-second violations, the latter should and the former shouldn’t.

When in doubt, swallow the whistle

If it’s a 50-50 call always give it to the defense. It’ll make for a more physical and intense game which simply can’t hurt. Sure, the points per game will probably drop but the idea that high scores mean entertaining basketball is just not true. While we’re on this topic, allow hand-checking anywhere on the court. This is just an extension of the of the rule passed about six years ago which allowed “brief contact” to be initiated by a defensive player as long as it didn’t “impede the progress of the player with the ball”.

Minor Things

  • Technical fouls get you two free throws.
  • Team that wins opening tip gets ball at the start of all quarters.
  • Allow out-of-bounds screens.
  • No matter who gets tied up before the jump-ball, anybody on the court can jump for it.
  • Get rid that illegal-defense remnant that’s out there. Nobody understands it. Still.

Allow 1 and 1s

Now we’re talking pressure FTs.

And now some stuff about the players.

Waiting for no reason before fouling

This has been irking me for about a decade because it seems players have gotten dumber over that period. Here’s the situation: Your team is down 1 with 19 seconds left and the other team has the ball. Logic and reason says you go for the steal and if you don’t get it you try to fou as quickly as possible. Here’s what invariably ends up happening: Other team inbounds, your team tries the steal, doesn’t get it. Your team waits, waits and waits while the other team dribbles the ball to the front-court. The assistant coach is screaming at you. The head coach is too shocked to say anything. The fans are yelling “Foul!!” You finally foul. Time left on the clock: 8 seconds. WTF?

I spoke to Jack Armstrong a week or so ago and he said it best, “Players today are over-coached and under-taught”.

Using the foul to give

I understand that one doesn’t want to wait to the point where the other guy is shooting the ball before using your foul, but at the same time if you’re draining a paltry 2 out of 20 seconds off the clock, was it really worth it? You’re better off using that foul by playing aggressive defense on the perimeter, maybe you’ll end up getting a turnover.

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