Before the Golden State Warriors opened up the preseason on Monday night, superstar guard Stephen Curry was asked about a new league rule change to prevent letting offensive players draw a shooting foul if they jump into a defender at an abnormal angle. The move has become more common in recent years, particularly for the best players in the league. Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash famously called out Trae Young for it at the start of last season by saying “that’s not basketball.”
Curry said he was still a little confused about the rule when asked. Good thing he got a first hand look at it in action once the game tipped off.
In the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers, Curry tried to launch himself into a defender to draw a foul on a three-pointer. Last year, Curry likely would have been heading to the free throw line after a play like this. This season, it’s a no call.
Curry is lucky he didn’t draw an offensive foul. The new rule states that “marginal” contact should be a no call, while exaggerated contact should be ruled as an offensive foul.
Curry was clearly trying to to draw a three-shot foul with that shot attempt. The refs sniffed it out and decided a no call was best. Given how hard the defender was closing out, it’s possible it would have been a defensive foul on Portland had Curry just gone up for a normal shot instead of trying to bait the refs into blowing the whistle.
Here’s the rule as laid out by the NBA, with video examples of how refs should now call each type of play the league is trying to eliminate.
For the 2021-22 NBA season, there will be an interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls. The following Points of Education videos showcase areas where a change was needed:— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) September 30, 2021
The non-basketball move highlighted in this segment shows a shooter launching or leaning into a defender at an abnormal angle. pic.twitter.com/4bChPtIHWI— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) September 30, 2021
Here is an example of a non-basketball move where the offensive player veers off his path into the defender in an abrupt manner. pic.twitter.com/E5rSgCETAr— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) September 30, 2021
In this non-basketball move, the offensive player overtly extends a portion of his body into a defender. pic.twitter.com/4vbW1wyRtr— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) September 30, 2021
This is an instance of a non-basketball move where the offensive player uses his off-arm to initiate contact with a defender. pic.twitter.com/fLiPhg9y5K— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) September 30, 2021
Here’s Curry’s full pregame quote on the rule change. He said “I’m sitting there watching the video, like, uhh, I’m still confused on how that’s not a (defensive) foul. There’s going to be some confusion to start, for sure.”
Steph Curry still isn't sure if he'll have to alter his game at all due to the NBA's new offensive foul hunting rules. He was used in an example recently by referees.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 4, 2021
Here's the full Curry soundbite + play in question (:32-second mark) pic.twitter.com/MJu3D2zstx
Curry’s coach Steve Kerr thinks the rule change will have a positive impact on the game.
“It’s what every coach wants,” Kerr told Slater. “As long as the refs follow through on what the league says they will do — and I have every confidence they will — we’ll get away from players manipulating refs and back to basketball. The defense, I think, has to be given a chance to guard. It’s never been harder to guard with all the shooting. I think the league recognized things had gone a little too far over the top giving every benefit of the doubt to the offensive guy. So eliminating some of these BS plays is really big.”
Kerr is right. This is an overdue rule change that is going to eliminate some of the most shameless NBA foul drawing tactics. It’s never been tougher to defend in the NBA than it today given the premium offensives put on spacing and shooting. Defensive players have so much ground to cover. Defenders know they need to close out hard to challenge three-point shots, but in the past it was too easy for offensive players to manipulate the refs to turn those closeouts into three-shot fouls.
Curry is far from the worst offender of this. James Harden and Young should be impacted the most. While there will be a period of adjustment for both the players and refs, ultimately this likely won’t have a huge impact on anyone’s numbers. The best players in the world like Harden, Curry, and Young adapt their games to what they can and can’t get away with from the refs. They will figure it out quickly and still be elite players.
The games should have a better flow with this latest point of emphasis. Fewer stoppages are a positive. Defenders won’t have to worry about a “gotcha” foul call when they’re just trying to do their jobs. The 2021-2022 season is just getting started, but this already looks like a positive change.