Changing the way transition take fouls are administered this season will not keep them out of the NBA game.
In fact, the league believes this type of play now can make the game better.
The long-awaited rule change — one of the training points for the NBA to begin this season — was a major talking point this week for the refs, who gathered for their preseason meetings now that training camps around from the league are about to open. There are other points of emphasis, but the foul changes may be the most important.
“Some of our best plays in the NBA are defensive basketball. We don’t want to discourage that. In fact, we think this rule will encourage that because now we’re asking you to make a legal play on the ball,” said Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s senior vice president overseeing officiating and practice. “From that perspective, we believe more exciting basketball is on the horizon, and those transition scoring opportunities — both defensively and offensively — can make for highlight plays. We’ve lost some of that and we think this rule will bring that excitement back to our game.”
A receiving foul — in which the defender does not play the ball — is what the league classifies as one that occurs either “during a transition scoring opportunity or immediately after a change of possession and before the offensive team has had a chance to advance the ball.” The exception is in the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.
The new penalty for such a foul is a free throw, which can be attempted by any player of the offending team in the game at the time the foul is committed, with continued possession by the offending team.
But the league also hopes that defenders playing the ball in those situations will lead to exciting plays, whether the punt results in the offensive team getting an easy score or the defensive team winning a turnover.
“Our players and our coaches, they’re good at what they do,” McCutchen said. “They are good at their jobs because they are dedicated to their work. They will definitely stop doing this if we are consistent in our work, which I expect we will be. Then they will know how to train it properly. And therein lies the glory of transition basketball being reintroduced into our game.”
Other coaching points this season are the strengths of the past few years, such as players having moment freedom in both the post and the perimeter, setting proper screens, avoiding trips and having “respect for the game” — which often it means they are not overly demonstrative. umpires or others when a call does not go their way.
Bench behavior will also be watched more closely, following an upward trend in recent years of players standing on their benches during the game and often trespassing on the sideline or baseline – perhaps being a little too close to the action.
“That’s going to be a bit of a change,” McCutchen said. “We want players on the bench to be able to react spontaneously to the exciting game of basketball. But it’s important that they don’t last the whole game, because now you’re dealing with game integrity issues, potential for injury to game participants, we want to eliminate all of that.”
Another change is coming where some groups don’t like to see the light come on.
When the NBA’s Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, makes a score change during the game — usually whether a 3-point shot was actually a 3 or a 2, or whether a basket beat the 24-second clock or not — a blue light will flash on the scorer’s table, indicating that a decision is about to be announced.
And that change will be announced at the first neutral opportunity, meaning a game could be stopped in some cases to update the score.
It’s designed to eliminate situations like the one in Game 7 of last season’s Eastern Conference finals, when Miami’s Max Struss hit a three-pointer early in the third quarter for the Heat in their game against the Boston Celtics. It was about 3 minutes into the game before the fans in Miami were notified that those three points were coming off the scoreboard after the center returner said Struss had gone out of bounds – although the Heat maintained that night that they had not seen any definitive corner saying that was clearly on the line.
Miami lost 100-96.
“The new interpretation will allow us to speed this up exponentially so that everyone has the best information as close to real time as possible,” McCutchen said.