NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been listening to our complaints. Two flawed procedures that had basketball fans up in arms last season are being altered, in my opinion, for the league's benefit. The 'Harden Rule' and the 'Zaza Rule,' will soon be implemented in an NBA near you!
NBA refs cracking down on two areas this year: 1. "Reckless" closeouts (see Zaza); 2. Shooters creating contact to draw FTs (see Harden)
First, lets take a look at the 'Zaza Rule.' I'm sure everyone remembers this from last season, when Zaza Pachulia notoriously closed out a Kawhi Leonard jumper, and ended up injuring Leonard on the play, ruining the San Antonio Spurs' chances at beating the Golden State Warriors and making a run at the title.
This season, on a reckless closeout, referees will call the initial foul, but will then be able to watch a replay to see if the player deserves a flagrant foul or not. Then again after the game, the zebras will be able to edit the call, and either upgrade or downgrade the foul appropriately, which coinsides with the current NBA rule on flagrant penalties.
If this rule were in place last season, then the Warriors and Zaza would've seen a less friendly outcome.
Per NBA officials, if this rule interpretation had been in place last season, Zaza would have been assessed a flagrant for foul on Kawhi.
The next rule change will affect shooters next season, but one player will feel the burn more than most. Does this look familiar?
According to Chris Herring at FiveThirtyEight, last season, James Harden drew more three-point foul attempts than any other NBA team. Yes, James Harden has single-handedly altered the game with his knack for drawing deep-range shooting fouls. In 2017, Harden drew over 110 of these calls. The next closest team was the Los Angeles Lakers, who drew 73 such fouls. And where the average NBA shooter draws a three-point foul 1.6% of the time, James Harden's whistle rate is ten times that, at 16.7%! There's basically a one-in-six chance that if Jim Harden is shooting a long range shot, he'll end up at the free-throw line to shoot three. Unbelievable.
Well, this travesty will be seen on NBA floors no longer, because the big wigs at the NBA have created a rule to hinder Harden and his tactical troublemaking.
On Harden rule: Refs will be making distinction between fouls that occur on the drive or gather vs. fouls on actual shooting motion.
That's exactly what Harden does: he puts his shoulder into defenders as he jumps, or he waits until a defender puts their arm up, and then he locks his arm in theirs, and tosses the ball into the air, which always causes contact and almost always draws a foul.
So now, NBA referees will base their calls on when the contact is made. If it's before the shot begins, then it'll be ruled as a foul on the floor, and no free-throws will be needed. If contact comes after a shooting motion is established, then the shooter will be able to head to the line, and take his free points.
The key, as NBA officials put it, is "sequencing." If contact comes before player starts shooting motion, it's a common foul. No free throws
These rule changes will undoubtedly benefit the league. The 'Zaza Rule' will help to prevent needless injuries, and the 'Harden Rule' will help to keep the flow of the game fluid, and won't give an advantage to shooters who have a tricky technique up their sleeves. But how will these rule changes affect the Boston Celtics?
Well, one guy who we saw drawing fouls around screens and forcing his way to the free-throw line regularly, was none other than our old friend Isaiah Thomas. I hated it when Isaiah would do this. I hate it when any player does this, but seeing it night in and night out was agitating. Isaiah would take a three-point foul 4%of the time that he was shooting from behind the arc, which is way above the league average. It's no James Harden level of manipulation, but IT4 is for sure a player that this rule alteration is aimed at affecting. I guess this won't affect the Cs, seeing as Isaiah isn't on the team anymore. I wonder if it'll affect his and Harden's offensive numbers.
We saw the 'Zaza Rule' up close and personal last season, during the second round of the Playoffs, when we took the Washington Wizards to Game 7. In the series' first game, Markieff Morris took an innocent mid-range jumper, and my man Al Horford got a little bit too close on the close-out.
Morris had no room to land, and sprained his ankle on the play. He didn't return to the game after hitting his and-one free throw.
The NBA is looking up ever since Adam Silver was made commissioner, with a bunch of rule changes being made to improve the sport. I hear that the next issue that'll be looked into is when coaches apply multiple healthy scratches in one game. That's a big one when it comes to attending a game, because when I go to watch the Celtics, I want to see the star players play. If you spend hundreds of dollars on tickets, and then at game time you find out that Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward aren't playing, then you've just kind of been ripped off by the team. I'm sure more on this problem will be coming shortly.