Because the NBA refuses to admit that intentional fouling is a real problem, its scourge is spreading. Tonight’s games featured four different players getting hacked, a new strategy that pushes the rulebook to the limit, and a refinement of the most hilarious kind of intentional foul.
The most interesting example came from the Rockets-Spurs game, where Danny Green fouled Clint Capela before he could inbound the ball:
As Jeff Van Gundy’s befuddled commentary makes apparent, nobody actually knew you could foul the inbounder. Nothing in the rulebook seems to specifically disallow it, and Capela was awarded two free throws (which he missed). There’s also the question of whether it constituted a delay of game, but later on the broadcasters explained that, according to the referees, a delay-of-game penalty could only have been called if Green knocked the ball out of Capela’s hands.
In the fourth quarter of the 76ers-Pistons game, there was a hilarious and straightforward instance of intentional fouling, as Nerlens Noel got himself a piggyback ride from Andre Drummond as soon as a free throw went up:
And those were only half the intentionally fouled players on the night. Having seen the Spurs pull it off just a few hours before, Al Horford fouled DeAndre Jordan before he inbounded the ball, just one of the three times Jordan was intentionally fouled. Boston’s Amir Johnson also got hacked.
When Adam Silver defended the NBA Board of Governors’ decision last summer not to change the intentional fouling rules, he said “the issue for the league from a competitive standpoint, in terms of changing it, we’d largely be changing the rule for two players and two teams,” referring to Jordan and Dwight Howard. But besides the fact that the total number of intentional fouls is exploding, when Johnson was hacked he became the27th different player to be intentionally fouled this season.
It has never been about changing the rules to benefit two players, but rather an acknowledgement that the NBA is an entertainment product, and intentional fouls are the entertainment equivalent of watching paint dry. The Spurs weren’t even bothering to pretend playing basketball when they fouled Capela, making a mockery of the idea that intentional fouling is somehow just “part of the game.”
But now that the traditionalists’ two favorite excuses not to act have been undermined, what will they say next to avoid changing the rule?
Photo via AP