Is this a foul?

Not this play specifically, but one very similar happened in last night’s Thunder/Warriors game. Down by two in overtime, Kevin Durant did that thing up top, ripping his arms through David Lee’s and in the process drawing a foul and three free throws. He made all three, which ended up being a pretty important part of a one-point Oklahoma City victory.

As you can imagine, Warriors coach Keith Smart wasn’t so happy about that call. From the AP:

Smart said he hopes NBA coaches will revisit the rules on the “rip” move in the offseason.

“That shouldn’t be a call because defensive players, you’re trying to tell your guys to get up on a good player,” Smart said. “If the player’s going to bait you into a foul—and I understand it’s a rule, so there’s nothing we can do about it—but … who has the right to the space? We’ve got to come to a conclusion.”

Fair words coming from a losing coach. He knows the call’s right, but he’s just saying maybe it shouldn’t be right. And maybe he’s right about it not being right. That’s a pretty wack foul call, even though it’s totally the correct call. It’s like a teacher locking you out of class because you’re 30 seconds late. It sucks, but they have every right in the world to do that. Maybe you shouldn’t have hit the snooze.

For his part, Durant says he’s just taking advantage of the rules.

Durant said he’s aware there’s a debate over the fairness of the play, but right now he’s just playing according to the current rules.

“They’ve said it’s a legal play, so I’m going to keep doing it until they tell me I can’t,” Durant said. “That’s when I’ll stop.”

Also fair. Why not use every little loophole you can to gain the tiny edge that makes a player great? You don’t see Al Thornton  doing this sort of thing on his way to becoming the NBA’s leading scorer. Using the rip move is smart, even if it’s kind of cheap.  To continue the bad metaphors, it’s like doing leg sweep after leg sweep after leg sweep in “Mortal Kombat.” Effective, but annoying.

The question now is whether or not this should even be a foul. If you go by the league’s block/charge rules, “defender is permitted to establish his legal guarding position in the path of a dribbler,” which would lead you to believe that a defender is also allowed to have his hands up without a shooter being able to draw a foul by pushing his own arms through the defender’s. Furthermore, “To get into a legal position, the defender needs to establish himself in the path of the offensive player before contact is made and before he starts his upward shooting motion.” That seems pretty similar to putting your hands up to defend, then having an offensive player’s shooting motion go through your arms, doesn’t it? I say yes.

Nonetheless, for the remainder of this season at least, this is a foul. Expect to see it done by Durant, Kobe and anyone else who realizes how smart it is to draw a foul this annoying. In fact, it’s just like some blogger deciding to finish his article filled with stupid metaphors with a metaphor about stupid metaphors.