NBA Rules Changes Breed Playoff Points, Questions

Those recent changes in how fouls were called, they were supposed to change everything. And to be fair, they have changed some things. Scoring is up, we got the fast-break Suns, and Steve Nash got two MVP's. We have spent a lot of time watching stars like Kobe and Wade at the line. But Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice wants to know whether Yao was somehow excluded from these new rules. ↵
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↵More pointedly, Justice thinks the Blazers have gained an advantage in at least one aspect of this series by exploiting the aura of non-call surrounding Yao: ↵
↵⇥Give the Portland Trail Blazers credit for being smart enough to take advantage of what the NBA allows them to do. If the referees are going to blow their whistle only every fifth or sixth time Yao is fouled, there’s no reason to change. ↵⇥
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↵⇥Remember how the NBA changed its defensive rules a few years ago to allow more freedom of movement around the basket? Defenders were supposed to be allowed one hand and one arm on an offensive player. Refs didn’t get the memo. The Blazers have pretty much succeeded in taking Yao out of this series by grabbing him at the foul line and holding on wherever he goes. ↵
↵Justice's piece contains one moment of vintage Yao humor—when asked by Carl Landry about a scar on his face, the center replies “My wife did it”. And Yao's claim that one ref ignored his complaints because "[his] English is not good enough" is either chilling, the Rockets star at his most mordant, or a combination of the two. However, it's worth noting that Yao, like Shaq before him and, to some degree, LeBron, is impossible to ref. Because they don't respond to contact like (relative) ordinary basketball builds, officials can often miss the signs of excess physicality. On the other hand, they can knock around defenders like flies, which makes offensive fouls seem to happena lot more often. ↵
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↵Then there's the more general dilemma: If the new rules were meant to make things easier for offensive players, what about guys for whom things were already simply due to an unholy mix of size and skill? Yao is practically staring eye-to-eye with the basket, and LeBron's speed and size give him something like a clear path to the basket when he gets some momentum. Maybe, in the back of the leauge's collective unconscious, there's the thought that "it's supposed to be easy now, but now this easy."↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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