It Pays to Foul, In The Modern “Anything Goes” NBA


That was some game on Friday night, huh? Great BASKETBALL game? Ehhhh. I wouldn’t go that far. Not when there are guys grabbing, bumping, holding, shoving, and eventually nut-punching each other for 48 minutes.

Richard Jefferson became the first player in this series to actually foul out. However, it should be noted that it fouls #5 and #6 came in the final :13 seconds of a blowout, where Jefferson was the designated “foul him” guy at the end.

I am willing to bet Jefferson is the last guy who will foul out this series.

The NBA just doesn’t want players fouling out. Period.

They should at least “embrace transparency” as the Commissioner preaches, and say as much. The league would rather LeBron James horse-collar Steph Curry while denying an inbound play, than call it a foul. They would prefer that Kyrie Irving just put up with a rake to the head and shoulder on a driving layup, than to hassle with stopping the game for free throws.

BLOG_barnesThe most tired cliche among supposedly old-school, tough-guy basketball people is: “They should LET ‘EM PLAY!” Well, you see what happens. It’s not basketball.

Last week, the NBA refs association put out a press release calling for the end of the much-hated (by some) “Last 2 Minute Reports” the league produces for close games. In that release, the NBA refs let slip a dirty little secret…

“Efforts to promote transparency have encouraged the idea that perfection in offciating is possible. Perfection is neither possible nor desirable; if every possible infraction were to be called, the game would be unwatchable and would cease to exist as a form of entertainment in this country.”

Ha, well.. yes. Of course. Sorta. Maybe.

So while we will halt the game for 5 minutes dead to look at whether a ball nipped out of bounds off somebody’s finger, there are Class A felonies being committed under the basket… and well…. “boys will be boys!”

This is why Kevin Love getting bushwhacked by Harrison Barnes on an over-the-back play in clear view of everybody, does not draw a whistle. The league tells the refs to let things go. Ignore obvious fouls if the play at least looks athletic or aggressive.

This is how 5 different calls get botched in the final :13 in San Antonio. The NBRA is right in pointing out the stupidity of the league claiming transparency on those L2M reports. Those three refs weren’t blind to all the mayhem occurring before their eyes, they just inherently knew that calling a foul a foul, would put them in the spotlight and quite likely drop their internal league rating.

Why bother?

And so Serge Ibaka is no dummy. He nearly strips Lamarcus Aldridge naked under the basket, because he’s reasonably certain there will be no call with 2 seconds left. Even on the road.

And he was right.

Calling games with these athletic freaks-of-nature is a damn near impossible task. But what makes it harder now, is that the league refuses to fix the broken windows of it’s product.

If you started calling fouls, fouls, then players would adjust. I picked a random year (1986) and looked through the NBA Finals box scores. In Game 3, both Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon played with 5 fouls. In Game 5, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton did the same. In Game 6, it was Olajuwon and Sampson on the brink with 5 each.

Would you ever see that today with star players? Not a chance. So what we get, is sloppy, often random basketball on the biggest stage. Then an obligatory $25,000 fine for a coach, for daring to say: “What the hell was that?” in a post-game press conference.

Put the fear or fouling out back into basketball. I think you’d be amazed at how much better that would quickly make the game look.



  1. Put the fear of running out of timeouts back in as well. The final 4 minutes of the game might be finished in under 2 hours…


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