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.

Comments (11)

  1. If the Defender is standing there with his hand up high. Shouldn’t this kind of call be considered an offensive foul. Much like when a player swipes a defenders arm off of him to drive to the hoop. If he’s in a “legal” defensive position, then the offensive player should be called with the foul. It seems more like an interpretation of the rule than an actual rule. Here’s another example, when a player pushes off of a defender to dunk the ball, he’s called for an offensive foul. If the player is smacking his hands into the defenders arms then that too should be an offensive foul. IMO

  2. When players start “taking advantage of the rules” is when the rules need to be revisited. Its no fun watching players take advantage of outdated rules when comparing it to playing legit basketball.

  3. Saw that call last night against David Lee, and it really is being exploited in a bad way. If you get the defender off their feet and are able to draw the contact that way that’s one thing, but bringing your hands up underneath like that really undermines the defensive capability of a player, especially against great shooters like Durant and Kobe.

  4. If you watch players that are able to get this foul called, it’s not just an effort to take advantage of the rules, it’s also an effort to give themselves some space to work in. For example, when Kevin Durant is being guarded tightly and he feels the defenders hand on his hip, in order to move the player off of him, he sweeps his arm under and takes a shot. Just like the defender is allowed to be in that position, KD is allowed to bring his arms up anyway he chooses to take a shot, and if the defender interferes with this by touching his arm or wrist, it’s a foul. Good defenders don’t get caught with their hand in the cookie jar. It’s less about these players taking advantage of the rules, and more about them using the rules to take advantage of poor defenders.

  5. In the OKC/POR game, KD pulled this. The defender had his hand up in the air as if to block KD’s sight and possible shot. KD swung his hands from the side, drawing this call in the air. It’s a ticky tacky foul. Although, the best thing about that game, a few plays later. Gerald Wallace pulled the same trick on KD. Even then it was ticky tacky, but still pretty funny.

  6. The call hardly ever gets made on a defender with his hands strait up in the air. In KDs case it only happens when they reach in on him. David Lee is a horrible defender and got caught. This doesnt bother me near as much as flopping but is enforced the same. Call it sometimes and ignore it sometimes.

  7. I was at that game (Sixers) as well, you just can’t put your arm in the “cylinder” or “area” (which is the first basketball “concept” you learn when you want to become a referee, at least for me that was a very important point in my formation) that belongs to the offensive player. That’s the rule, it might not make everyone happy, but it exists to protect them from reach-in fouls.

  8. It is a foul every time. A correct defensive stance is with the hands up or out away from the body. If you hands are in front of you, you risk the chance of a foul,.. or a steal. If there is no contact, regardless of who intiated it, then it’s a clean play. If there is contact, a foul should be called every time. They tell players, that if their hands are up in the air, it’s not a foul, but if their hands are down at all, it’s a foul. The way they’re calling this is consistent. The real issues is when offensive players fake and jump into defenders that jump straight up. That’s the real problem in the NBA.

  9. Agreed with Dave above on all counts. I mean: if a lot of players are able to defend (even Durant or Kobe) without fouling, then the problem is with the defender, not the rule.

    It’s not about being fair or not, it’s the rules…the fact that you can’t take a charge while under the basket isn’t fair either and everyone is cool with that.

    But yeah, drawing a foul leaning in on a defender who got faked seems much more weak to me. Driving should be the more intelligent thing to do in that situation, but it isn’t.

  10. It’s an awful tactic, but it’s tougher to call not nearly as bad as the “jumping into a player” foul. There are plenty of situations where the defender jumps and his path would never have touched the offensive player, and the offensive player just leaps into him. Who wins from this being a foul? Not talented defensive players, not more gifted offensive players if the field is leveled by cheap tactics, and definitely not fans who have to see this ugliness.

  11. if the offensive player is drivig to the basket can you lay your hands on him

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