“Not this year!”
For years, NBA fans have been complaining about shooters' drawing cheap fouls by initiating contact with a defender. It’s a move most associated with James Harden, but he’s far from the only guy who has earned easy free throws by leaning in on jump shots.
This move became enough of a problem that the NBA decided to do something about it. This year, shooters won’t be rewarded with defensive foul calls for initiating contact. Unnatural shooting motions that result in contact with a defender will either be noncalls or offensive fouls. It’ll take some getting used to, as Stephen Curry showed during Monday’s preseason game against the Blazers.
Curry stepped back behind the three-point line, waited for Nassir Little to close him down and proceeded to jump right into Little as he threw up a wild shot. Last year, Little would have been called for a foul. This year, play on.
“Not this year!” the Portland broadcast team told Curry.
This new interpretation of the rules will clearly require an adjustment for NBA players. There’s no doubt Curry knows about the change, but maybe he just went into autopilot when he saw Little leaping at him. Steph might have been able to draw a foul if he had just gone straight up with his shot; clearly the instinct to initiate contact will be hard to reprogram.
The most interesting thing to watch about the rule tweak will be when shooters get whistled for offensive fouls. The league has said that only particularly egregious attempts to initiate contact will result in offensive foul calls. It remains to be seen where officials will draw that line, but the NBA pointed to this play by Curry from last season where he purposefully bumps Donte DiVincenzo as an example of something that would be an offensive foul this year.
There will certainly be growing pains for players and officials as they feel out how the rulebook should be interpreted, but that’s what the preseason is for.
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