December 08, 2011
When the 2011-12 season starts on Dec. 25, the NBA will not be calling shooting fouls on so-called "rip-through" moves, wherein a shooter throws his arms into a defender as he shoots in order to draw contact. Roll over Karl Malone, tell Kevin Durant(notes) the news.
It's a clever trick, that rip-through, and it allowed for Durant to shoot 8.6 free throws per game last season, second in the league, despite shooting a white-hot 88 percent from the stripe. The move annoyed just about everyone save for Thunder, Laker (Kobe Bryant(notes)) and Heat (Dwyane Wade(notes)) fans, though, as it used a defender's stifling pressure against himself, and turned competitive games into free-throw shooting contests.
So … good idea, right?
Not quite. A foul is still a foul, and though it won't be called a shooting foul if a team is out of the penalty, all you need are a few rip-throughs to earn your team the penalty nod and a trip to the line. All while the game is slowed, and the whistles are bleating away. Nowhere in Ric Bucher's report does it mention the move being outlawed, or it being turned into an offensive foul. It's just that Kevin Durant can't get to the line on it just a minute into the third quarter.
What we have here is the worst of both worlds. Games will still be slowed, but the changing of the rule (and a crackdown on continuation or "and one" calls, applauded by grandfathers everywhere who don't "get why that's a three-point play") will hinder scoring. And because these two enforcements are judgment calls -- was the player in a shooting motion when he was hit on the rip-through? Was he shooting when the center fouled him in the lane? -- expect more angry fans, players, coaches and announcers to pipe up.
I'm certainly not in love with the rip-through move. It's pretty annoying, if a little clever when done correctly. But rule changes like these will only result in longer games, as more teams hit the penalty (and the resulting free throws) earlier. As with all judgment calls, the enforcement will lighten up as the season moves along, guaranteeing a series of hardy-har "I thought they weren't rewarding that with free throws anymore?" comments from TV analysts come spring.
In effect, just more business as usual from the NBA, and its vice president of operations Stu Jackson. We appreciate the tinkering, but you're not finished with this just yet.