Drawing Fouls is a Dying Breed…

Updated: October 28, 2021
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A likely playoff matchup come springtime was played out in Brooklyn but the way the whistle swayed you might’ve assumed they were all down in South Beach. The New York telecast and the Nets superstars spent more time fixating on the calls rather than protecting the paint or grabbing boards as Miami dominated Brooklyn on the glass 62-42. The highlight reel for BAM’s rolls to the basket alone could cause nausea to anybody watching live in Bushwick. It looked as if they had zero interest in ever putting a body on Adebayo as he swallowed up lobs and put-backs all night at Barclays Center. Despite the L and the Nets going down 2-3 for their slow start to the season, the story was centered around the calls and the continued saga of the Harden Rule and the new referee mandates (check out part one from earlier this week the harden hangover).

In an article earlier in the week I proposed the idea that the officials were not only avoiding fouls created by in-organic contact by a shooter out on the perimeter but that even the contact created after a shot would be a no-call if the shooter had flared out their body in a desperate attempt for the whistle. For example: Curry splits his legs in an obvious unnatural movement to his shot (that does not create contact with the defender) and after the ball left his hands, the defender hit his wrist resulting in a no-call as a punishment for his flare of the body. 

Well, it looks like the refs have doubled down on this approach and even extended it inside of the arc and have now taken intent into consideration. Something has been quite clear about Harden’s game the last 3-4 years is that often he has zero intention of actually putting up a shot with the intention to score but instead creates the contact with the defender only to force the shot up to manufacture the free throws. Three times last night Harden drove into the paint and created contact and flared his arms up to the heavens only to forsaken by the father and his absence to respond to James’ struggles. No call after no call had the Brooklyn bench in a frenzy. Now Miami was the better team last night, but the momentum was unquestionably set by the whistle.

…but what did they expect? Harden and Coach Nash went after the officials and started the tabloid headline that James is the “Poster Boy” of the new rule changes. They put them on blast and questioned their integrity and professionalism. Why exactly would a player or coach think that this approach would have any other response in the following game? Put these quotes aside though, literally every single time Durant or Harden failed to score at the basket they threw their arms in the air as if they are incapable of missing a shot and it must have been the contact that was responsible for their failures.

On the flip side, I meticulously watched every possession waiting for Butler to complain about a call at the rim as he relentlessly created contact in the paint, and not one time did he blame his misses at the basket on the calls. See Jimmy has always been a second-class citizen when it comes to life as an NBA All-Star. Only for a sliver of seconds in the Bubble Finals did people put him in the top 10 discussion but other than that he’s been lucky to be slotted in the top 20 in most analysts’ eyes. The thing that he has come to know as a truth is that the NBA is an imperfect place…sometimes contact we create at the basket is rewarded and sometimes it isn’t. 

Now for players with the resume and 1st ballet hall of fame parking places already reserved like King James, the Beard, and the Slim Reaper, this truth does not exist. They have always lived in a perfect world where the whistle revolves around their greatness. Jimmy Butler didn’t expect the whistle when he bodied up and missed against Griffin because more times than not the last handful of years, he hasn’t got that call. If his jersey had a top 10 name on it, it might’ve been different.

The new rule changes have several extras built into the subtext and written in between the lines. It has not only been made to create a better product but to even the playing field. Superstars will always get better calls than rookies, but this idea that every time an All-NBA star throws his body into a defender he deserves free throws is a truth that has now been abandoned. Unlike in a court of law, intention is quite transparent on the basketball court. A player who is trying to score and a player trying to manufacture free throws looks entirely different…it feels different, it tastes different. And it appears Adam Silver has armed his officers with the bullets to fire at those players who have been manipulating the system with as many no-calls as it takes to change their game for the better of the NBA as a whole.

No shade should be cast upon the previous years of players utilizing their advantages to execute W’s and avoid the L, but today is today, and the rules have changed. Offense out on the perimeter is all about the ability to adapt and the officials have made it clear as day that the old regime has been abandoned and no longer will they reward the contortions of the body to create contact simply for the sake of creating contact. Even with a constant double Curry has continued to be impactful…can Harden find a way to do the same?

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