- The NBA made rule changes to stop offensive players from making unnatural moves to draw fouls.
- Stephen Curry tried to draw a foul in a preseason game and was surprised by the no-call.
- The rule change was applauded by many, as attempts to draw fouls often frustrated viewers.
NBA players are going to have a more challenging time getting to the free-throw line in 2021-22.
Over the offseason, the NBA implemented rule changes to stop offensive players from making unnatural moves to draw fouls. Those moves included leaning into defenders to initiate contact, abruptly changing their path, or kicking their legs out in unnecessary ways to create contact, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
These types of plays are often used by some of the league’s best and headiest offensive players. They also frequently frustrated defenders, coaches, commentators, and fans. Such foul-baiting attempts left defenders without a course of action except to scale back their defense and keep a safe amount of distance between themselves and an offensive player.
Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash famously vented to reporters about Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young’s penchant for stopping short on drives and drawing contact from a defender. “That’s not basketball,” Nash said.
During the Golden State Warriors’ first preseason game on Monday, Stephen Curry learned that the league was truly cracking down on these types of plays.
In the first quarter, Curry prepared for a stepback three-pointer when Portland Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little jumped into the air to contest the shot. While Little was in the air, Curry jumped into him and heaved the ball at the backboard to draw three foul shots.
No call. Curry ran back down the court with his hands in the air, looking to the referees for a whistle.
“Not this year!” one of the announcers said.
Ironically, Curry and his coach Steve Kerr were proponents of the crackdown.
“The game needs it,” Kerr told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “I say the same thing all the time. If we’re making calls in the NBA that would literally start fights in a pickup game because they’re so egregious and non-basketball-related … then we’re doing something wrong.”
Curry told Slater he was still confused about what constitute a defensive foul, but agreed it was better for the “purity” of the game.
“But definitely the purity of the game, the goal is to put the ball in the basket and not be out there just living and dying by trying to get to the free-throw line any way you can,” Curry said. “I love the effort.”
Kerr told Slater he thinks referees tend to emphasize rule changes more heavily in the preseason, then relax during the regular season. If moves like Curry’s on Monday no longer result in foul calls, many fans will be happy.