Give credit where credit is due. We've criticized the NBA and Adam Silver for a lot of things during the past season, but this one they got right. The rule changes, and the consistency with which they have been implemented, made NBA games better. No more BS foul calls, a million free throws, and fourth quarters that last 45 minutes.
The flow of the game
Steve Kerr is one of the most outspoken coaches about the need for the NBA to change specific rules. For transparency's sake, I am a passionate supporter of Kerr's mission to point out there's a ton of fundamental basketball rules the NBA just gave up on calling - from blatant traveling to basic dribbling mistakes. That's our big white whale, but both Steve and I are thrilled the NBA finally addressed the bulls**t calls James Harden perfected, with Chris Paul and Trae Young right behind him.
"I love what I'm seeing. I think the officials are doing a great job. The game has more of an authentic feel."
Steve Kerr, via Anthony Slater
Kerr also predicted the so-called "euro-fouls" are the next ones to go. His experience in the Olympics gave Kerr a front-row seat for the way FIBA addressed it. If you foul a player to stop an apparent transition basket (a 3 on 1, and situations like that), that's a technical resulting in a free throw and the ball on the side. Unfortunately, we will most likely have to wait until next season for that rule to be changed.
Kerr is 100% right; we got rid of the nonsense and restored some balance and order on the floor. One stat everyone talked about is James Harden's free throw attempts. Here are the numbers for the first five games of the season.
- 4-4 FT
- 3-4 FT
- 1-1 FT
- 3-3 FT
- 3-3 FT
This is the first time he's gone 5 straight games with fewer than 5 free throws since March 2011. The Beard's bad numbers are primarily a consequence of spending the summer recovering from a hamstring injury. But, the rule changes will permanently impact his efficiency. It's time for Harden to reinvent himself.
Was Harden shamelessly hunting fouls? Yes. Was it smart? Most of the time. I always thought having such a Harden-centric offense in Houston made them a lesser team in the playoffs. You need to move the ball and get everyone involved on a consistent basis for a team to win in the playoffs. (At least that's my basketball dogma.) But even if it was smart, it was an insult to the game.
These four examples show everything that was rotten in the NBA. Guys had an open lane for a layup, and they would start flopping for no apparent reason. James Harden is still a tremendous offensive force, but once he gets in full shape and his hamstring is 100%, it will be fascinating to see how much his game suffers without all the calls he got in previous years. I think it will have a larger impact than most predict.
Ryen Rusillo pointed out the key is in the refs' hands. They've been doing a great job so far, and let's hope they remain vigilant. It will take time for players to change their habits and instincts, and we need to make sure to support good refereeing calls.
It may be my European background, but a loud set of booing every time a player complains about a good no-call would be an excellent way to support the refs.