October 13, 2010
It's an annual event for the NBA that, frankly, I'm a little tired of.
Seemingly every fall the league announces that it will do more to crack down on traveling violations, while promising to enforce stricter technical-foul rules along the way. And, every fall, the NBA follows through on this promise. At least until the regular season starts.
The preseason? Sure, it's full of embarrassing technical-foul calls and needless traveling violations (feel free to switch "embarrassing" and "needless" as you see fit), but once the season starts? It's back to normal. Thank God for that.
Because of all the things that are wrong with the NBA, those extra steps and a few overwrought reactions are way, way down the list. There are dozens of things wrong with the way the game is called in 2010, but these two points of emphasis are pretty pointless. It's an impossible game to call, and because of that you're going to see a ton of blown calls. And players should be allowed to react as such.
Traveling? Nobody, outside of the people that only watch the NBA sporadically, really cares about this. You're reading an NBA blog on Oct. 13. Do you think travelling calls are putting this game in peril?
Before Tuesday night's Suns/Jazz hookup, vice president and director of officials Bernie Fryer addressed the media, and discussed the "changes." Brent Pollakoff of FanHouse was there to take it all down.
The video that covers this component of the rule enforcement which was shown to the media (and that the league is going around and showing to all 30 teams) was entitled "Respect for the Game." Basically what that means is that the league has determined that excessive complaining from the players about foul calls is something they want to greatly reduce, so they're trying to take it down several notches.
And the only way to do that is by calling more technical fouls.
The explanation on what will warrant a technical under the new rules seemed straightforward enough, at least in an off-the-court setting. Any gestures toward an official (or even away from one) that are deemed to be overt or excessive will be grounds for a technical foul. This can include claps or "air-punches" as demonstrations of disagreement against a call, or even excessive discussions with a referee over the course of a game about a multitude of calls.
I watch way too many NBA games, and don't suffer moaning gladly. But outside of a few "how is that not a T?" non-calls on Rasheed Wallace(notes) or Kobe Bryant(notes), I couldn't give a rip about a supposed lack of "respect for the game" from these players. And I actually had no problem with Rasheed and Kobe's pouts, I just thought that (despite Rasheed's pleadings to the contrary) they tended to get away with a lot more than the average player. Thought it curious, not critical.
If the NBA wants the game to improve, it needs to stop blowing a whistle every time a player drives, and a whiff of contact sends a defender underneath the driver to the ground. It's a terrible call, whether it goes to the driver or the defender. And flopping. How these refs don't understand that it's often best to wait a half second and not follow your initial instinct to whistle when someone hits the floor is beyond me.
Beyond that, though? Continue to watch cutters that are bumped and cut down on hand-checking, and you'll be fine. The league is bound to upset fans with a series of missed or made calls, but that's a function of (say it with me) a pro game that is nearly impossible to call.
Ringing up air punches or staring at a player's feet while his defender's hands are in his chest, are not going to make this game any better.
Not that this will mean anything in a month's time, though.