You've got to be kidding me. It happened again?
Yes, it did. During the second quarter of an eventual 111-102 overtime victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night, Dwight Howard(notes) was whistled for violating the NBA's 10-second rule for free-throw shooters. As Evan Dunlap noted at Orlando Pinstriped Post, it was the second straight night that the Orlando Magic center has run afoul of the almost-never-enforced rule against taking too long at the foul line — Howard got dinged for delaying during the second quarter of the Magic's 78-72 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday — and his third such violation of the season.
Following the first infraction, which came during the Magic's Christmas Day win over the Boston Celtics, legendary NBA coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown said he had "never seen it called in any game that [he'd] ever done in 26 years of doing television." Well, as the saying goes, things come in threes when you take an illegal amount of time to do those things on a basketball court. (I hope you'll forgive my using that classic cliché.)
After stepping to the charity stripe with the Bobcats holding a 50-41 lead, Howard missed the first of his two freebies. After receiving the ball from the official for his second attempt, Howard launched into his extraordinarily deliberate free-throw routine.
Take a deep breath. (Beat.) Shrug the shoulders. (Beat.) Spin the ball in your left hand. (Beat.) Slow dribble. (Beat.) Slow dribble. (Beat.) Slow dribble. (Beat.) Raise your eyes to the basket. (Beat.) Bend at the knees, and then ... whistle.
Before Howard could let the second shot fly, the refs flagged him for stalling, thanks in no small part to the out-loud, demonstrative and very Duke-y counting of Bobcats shooting guard Gerald Henderson(notes). And just like the first time around against the Celtics, Howard registered his displeasure with the call by throwing the ball away in disgust, which earned the Orlando pivot a technical foul, his league-leading 18th T of the season.
NBA rules stipulate that players earn a one-game suspension after receiving No. 16, which Howard earned March 4 against the Bulls and served on March 7 against the Portland Trail Blazers, and for every two techs they accumulate after that. The NBA could rescind No. 18, as they did when they struck Howard's Jan. 19 tech from the record, but that seems unlikely, considering that No. 17 — registered on March 30 against the New York Knicks for, once again, tossing the ball away from the officials after a call he didn't like — was upheld by the league.
"While missing a regular-season game at this stage — the Magic already have clinched a playoff spot and home-court advantage — doesn't affect the team's postseason," wrote Brian Schmitz wrote at the Orlando Sentinel's Magic BasketBlog, "it will cost Howard a game check, valued at about $150,000." On top of that, it'll take away a prime opportunity for the big man to challenge Rose's status as the league's presumptive MVP by asserting his own primacy in front of a national television audience. You're blowing it for all the stat kids, Dwight!
For those unfamiliar with the letter of the law — and considering the Halley's Comet nature of these calls against anyone other than Dwight, that's most of us — here's the relevant passage from Section IV of Rule 4 of this season's Official Rules of the National Basketball Association, which covers free throws and penalties (emphasis mine):
A free throw is the privilege given a player to score one point by an unhindered attempt for the goal from a position directly behind the free throw line. This attempt must be made within 10 seconds.
And here it is again, referenced in Section I of Rule 9:
a. When a free throw is awarded, an official shall put the ball in play by placing it at the disposal of the free throw shooter. The shooter shall be above the free throw line and within the upper half of the free throw circle. He shall attempt the free throw within 10 seconds in such a way that the ball enters the basket or touches the ring. [...]
If there is a violation and the free throw attempt is to remain in play, the opposing team shall inbound on either sideline at the free throw line extended.
It's almost never invoked — "quite frankly," as Eddy Rivera wrote at Magic Basketball after the game, "it's something that should happen more often but referees turn a blind eye more often than not" — but it's real. So while Magic fans are within their rights to arch their eyebrows and wonder why this only seems to get called on their guy, they might also do well to suggest that their guy consider a new free-throw routine this summer.
I know it's scary to give up a technique that's led you to a sub-60 percent mark from the line in each of the past six seasons, Dwight, but if the zebras are going to keep busting your chops, maybe it's worth the risk. Something to think about as you watch the action this Sunday.
International readers ("Int'l read'rs"): If the clip above isn't rocking for you, please feel free to peruse the whistle, toss and tech elsewhere, thanks to phillykid330.