Have you been enjoying these NBA playoffs? Unless you are a full-time hoop head, it probably depends on who you root for. Or what you root for.
Regardless, you’ve surely noticed the uptick in offensive fouls this season, and their over-abundance in the playoffs. Taking a charge in the NBA has gone from something that was a wily and gritty thing to do, to becoming something mostly sinister and deceptively opportunistic. It’s the Kyle Lowrys and Marcus Smarts and Patrick Beverleys and Blake Griffins of the world who have made charges ingrained in the league. These guys are so adept at drawing fraudulent charges, you might get a call from Visa.
And I say that as someone who loves watching good defense and guys making hustle plays. You can’t take offensive fouls completely out of the game, as they are important in limiting offensive firepower. The defense should clearly be able to maintain their ground. And yet, the NBA could tweak some rules, or tweak the way they officiate games, in order to better regulate charges.
To be clear, it should always be a foul on the offensive player when the offensive player pushes, pushes off, impedes, knocks down, trips, or overpowers a defensive player who is in a correct defensive guarding position.
Is it fair to blame Duke and Coach K for this movement? I don’t really care, because it definitely seems true, and those tucked-in nerds have gotten the benefit of the doubt for far too long. Those floor-slapping gym rats got so many calls that if you didn’t copy them, you were doing yourself a disservice. But we can put our feet down and actually try to get a stop, without falling waiflike and hoping things go our way.
The NBA changes the way they call things all the time. Last year they stopped calling fouls for James Harden and Trae Young when they purposely drove into moving defensive players and threw the ball wildly at the hoop. It was a blessing.
They can do the same thing if they stop calling anyone who sets up in the lane or near the hoop to absorb an oncoming driver. There would still be offensive fouls, but they wouldn’t be charges, but instead player control fouls. Setting up camp and attempting to take the charge should be an automatic defensive blocking foul. This would be very easy to legislate out, and if they called it on night one of the season, players would stop doing it by the end of the second week.
Set up a new rule that the only player who can draw an offensive foul is someone guarding the ball. No more guys running over to get run over. If you are guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo and he barrels through you, he gets the foul. If you are guarding Jayson Tatum and he drives at you, uses his second arm to push you backwards and he pulls up, he gets the fouls. Etcetera etcetera.
A few years ago, the league started fining players for obvious and intentional flops. They would review game tape and issue a warning for first time offenders, and then started escalating fines for each additional violation. The league could issue postgame technical fouls to players who flop, which would have two levels of penalty. One, the next game would start with free throws for their opponents. And two, NBA players are already suspended with technical foul accumulation (16 of them and then every other after 16), so more technicals mean more games missed.
The league can decide how to penalize that, but it is abhorrent to watch a player drive, pass the ball, and the defender be so obsessed with taking a charge, that they stay in the path and absorb the contact in order to get the call. I would start with making that worth two fouls and go as high as making it worth a technical or flagrant foul
Offensive fouls are way WAY too cool for referees to call. The ref signal for an offensive foul is a hand on the head, with the elbow pointed out, but the real exclamation point is an EMPHATIC point with his other arm, down the floor. Sometimes it is even led into with a couple big hops. Here, check out this asshat:
Refs are (perhaps unintentionally) encouraged to call an offensive foul because it looks cool to make the call. Let’s make the signal something really passive and uncool, like the macarena or a nose-pick, and I guarantee that the rate of offensive fouls goes down.