By Rob Mahoney
November 28, 2012


By Rob Mahoney

An otherwise nondescript Tuesday-night schedule may have brought about something unprecedented in the NBA. In the above sequence, Minnesota's Kevin Love slid into position to potentially draw a charge on Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, who had been surging toward the rim off the dribble. The result was exactly the kind of borderline block/charge collision that NBA officials are forced to negotiate on a nightly basis. One can make a reasonable case that either Love or Cousins committed a foul, and it was up to Ron Garretson (the crew chief who initially signaled a blocking foul), Brent Barnaky (the baseline official who signaled a charge), and John Goble (who was stationed on the opposite sideline) to suss out the true violation.

What ensued was a bit unusual to say the least. After a brief discussion among the officials, Love and Cousins were each given a foul on the play, presumably as a combination block and charge. A double foul was assessed, and in lieu of a shot attempt or true turnover (though, according to the play-by-play, Cousins was nonetheless assessed a TO), both teams participated in a jump ball at center court. If such a thing has ever happened before, I'm not aware of it. Though it may not be all that uncommon for officials to assess double fouls in other situations, doing so on the typically either-or proposition of a block/charge call appears unique.

That said, the NBA's most recent rulebook does actually provide a pretty explicit procedure for just such an occasion, and it appears that Garretson, Barnaky and Goble followed the rule perfectly. Here's the exact wording of the rule in question:


Section VI—Double Fouls

f. If a double foul occurs as a result of a difference in opinion by the officials, no points can be scored and play shall resume with a jump ball at the center circle between any two opponents in the game at that time. No substitute may participate in the jump ball.

The rulebook also cites 10 specific triggers that would cue a jump ball at center court, including the above, and the quoted rule is the only applicable scenario.

Most of the time, dissenting officials are reined in -- by way of explanation, deference to a better angle, or crew chief authority -- before leaving the post-play huddle. Even if individual officials stand by their vision and judgment, a decisive call* is made in favor of one player or another in almost all instances, thus resulting in a very standard foul attribution. Here, Garretson and Barnaky apparently failed to reach such an agreement (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), and instead tagged both Love and Cousins with fouls in a way that is entirely within their right according to the rulebook.

*Keep in mind that this double-foul scenario isn't a declaration that Love and Cousins arrived at the same spot on the floor at the same time, as league rules dictate that any "tie" is to be considered a blocking foul, given that the defender didn't actually beat the offensive player to the spot. Instead, this is merely the result of two steadfast takes on the same borderline play, and the exercising of a little-known provision of the double-foul rule.

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