NBA could have problem on its hands with inconsistent carrying calls

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Did NBA create bigger problem cracking down on carrying calls? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- Subsection D of Section II in Rule 10 of the NBA's official rulebook might as well have been spit, chewed and thrown out many, many years ago. It revolves around the league's carrying rule, the latest head-scratcher to the referees' shift in focus this season.

As the NBA cracks down on traveling calls, the rate of whistles for carrying or palming the ball has been even more substantial. Modern footwork and step-backs make traveling not an exact science. Carrying the ball might sound obvious, though it's far from it in the reality of the speed of the game.

With the ball being dribbled hundreds and thousands of times in a single game, has the NBA actually created a bigger problem than it ever could have imagined?

"That's a good question, because what is the true definition of it?" Curry said Monday night after the Warriors' loss to the Indiana Pacers, when asked if the inconsistency of the calls will be a bigger problem as the season progresses. "What are the ones that are pretty egregious that some traditionally I guess they let go and now they're trying to crack down on it?

"And now it might sway a little bit overboard to some that are kind of iffy."

Curry himself was the latest Warrior to be on the wrong side of an iffy carrying call. Following an Andrew Nembhard 3-pointer that gave the Pacers a 102-100 lead with four-plus minutes to go, Curry, while dribbling through his legs, stops for a split-second in his step-back to get behind the 3-point line. Everything looks completely normal.

Not to the refs. Or at least, not to their latest focal point. Curry couldn't believe the call in the Warriors' latest case of confusion.

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"I really didn't think mine was," Curry said emphatically. "Usually when you carry and you get away with it, there's a reaction usually when you get called for it like, 'Yeah, I did that.' When I had the reaction I had it was like, I didn't know what I did wrong.

"Big moment in the game when you're trying to fight your way back into it.

The bigger problem in the hole the league is digging right now came to fruition not even a minute later. With Curry guarding him at the top of the 3-point line, Nembhard appears to be carrying, at least by the rule and what the league is eyeing right now, multiple times. Not one whistle was blown.

The result was three more points for the Pacers, pushing their lead to seven points with three minutes to go. A furious Steve Kerr roamed the sidelines searching for answers.

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Over the first month of the season in October, there wasn't a single carrying violation call made and only six palming calls. There were then 44 carries called in November, and 57 palming violations. All last season, there were only 43 carrying calls made and 67 palming calls, according to ESPN's Kevin Pelton.

Warriors guard Jordan Poole found himself as the poster child in the worst ways for the NBA's newest obsession at the start of last month. In the Warriors' 116-109 loss to the Miami Heat on Nov. 1, Poole was called for carrying three times. Kerr agreed with the law of the rule. He also voiced his feelings that Poole is far from the only player who carries here and there.

“I guess there was an email that went out today and honestly, I didn’t check my email,” Kerr told reporters in Miami after the loss. “Like, we got a game today I’m not looking at emails. I was shocked because basically the whole league does that. They’ve been doing it ever since Allen Iverson convinced the referees that it wasn’t a carry.

“It is a carry. What Jordan does is a carry, but the whole league’s been doing it. I guess I got to start checking my email on game days.”

Draymond Green sent the same message. Carries happen, so call them every time then.

"If you gonna call that, you better call that because every guard in the NBA carries -- a lot," Green said in Miami. "Some of the best ball handlers in the NBA carry often. So if it’s a point of emphasis, then let’s see it.

"But I’m not sure how many I’ve seen all year and to see three in one game on one guy. ... So if it’s a point of emphasis, great. But let’s see it then."

RELATED: Déjà vu: Dubs on wrong end of 'carbon-copy' loss to Pacers

That puts the league and its officiating crews in quite the conundrum. The game will slow down if carries and palming are called every single time. Scoring numbers won't be as high, something the NBA doesn't want to happen -- whether they want to admit it or not.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who is one of the most elusive ballhandlers the game has right now, came to the defense of Poole when the controversy first arose at the start of last month. The Warriors were begging for carrying calls on Luka Doncic in Dallas late last month as he backed down Klay Thompson in the post and clearly hit pause with his hand under the ball on multiple occasions. Stars get star treatment.

On Monday night, it was the Warriors superstar who was the victim while a second-round rookie appeared to get away with the same or more.

"I'm sure that stuff will work itself out," Curry said Monday night. "It's not something I'm thinking about when I'm out there. You just play basketball because you know how to play, know how to dribble. But, you just hope they get them all right."

The issue is, that's too tough of an ask. We're seeing in real time the inconsistencies of the call, and one might come at the wrong time that sets social media ablaze.

All this likely will go away once the playoffs are here. Until then, questions will keep coming and an overcorrection could cause one hell of a domino effect on the state of the game, the standings and more. Keep your eyes open to how this all resolves in the coming months.

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