Category Archives: NBA

Block or Charge: The Most Difficult Call in Basketball

They can it a “bang-bang” play.  It happens so fast.  But don’t worry.  No one is dead, but there are probably a body or two on the floor staring blankly at the refs as the refs stare at each other with the “did you get that” look of fear in their eyes.

The block or charge call is the most difficult in all of basketball, and maybe in all of sports.  Many variables have to line-up at the moment one player collides into another player, all which a ref must process to decide what gesture he makes.

Was the defender moving ?  Was his feet set?  Did the offensive player lead with his shoulder?  Did the defender come under the offensive player as he was landing?  Was the player outside the circle?  Do I count the basket?

Between the  first weekend of  the NCAA tourney and the NIT, there were plenty of games in prime-time, and refs have had to make the dreaded call.  Mostly recently was last night, Penn State playing at Florida in the NIT quarter-finals.  Side-Note:  the Gator crowd was rockin’ and was treated to a great game.

Late in the game PSU guard Talor Battle drove baseline, left his feet for a finger-roll, and Florida guard Nick Calathes set his feet and prepared for the hit while Battle was in the air.  What is the call?  The ref called a charge, but counted the basket.

WHAT?

There are a handful of variations of the call, this however, is the most idiotic variation of the “most difficult call” – which will be refer to as “the call” from this point forward.

The PSU guard made a good move, started his shot legally, but was called illegal because another player moved underneath him prior to Battle landing safely, which he could not do because a player was in the way.  But it must not have been that illegal, because the ref counted the basket.

Even the commentators were miffed by “the call” – granted they have the luxury of a second look at the play in slow-motion – and they made their options known.  Many commentators have been very vocal in this conversation.  I vaguely remember a Jeff Van Gundy rant about this topic a few months ago when ESPN swapped announcers, putting the NBA crew with Van Gundy on the Duke vs. Davidson game.

Side-Note:  I was not a Van Gundy fan when he was coaching, but I think he is just crazy enough to be entertaining as a broadcaster.

The NBA has made steps to take some variables out of “the call”.  By putting the half circle on the floor, a couple of feet out from the bottom of the net and calling it the “restricted area”, the call becomes much easier.  No matter if the defender is set, if his feet are touching that line, it is a block.  Plan and simple.

In the NBA, almost every player can jump outside of the lane and land in that “under the basket” area and the possibility of injury is greater.  Not so in college.

Another important aspect of “the call” that is over looked is the defenders right to that same space.  To say that the offensive player has more right to that spot on the court is absurd.  yet, that unconscious prejudice affects the way the call is made.

If a ref is “bias” in that they believe the offensive player is dictating the action, then the call is simple, read the reaction of the defender to the action of the offensive player.  Depending on what transpires, the call is quite obvious.  But if you believe that the defensive player is predicting a move prior to the offensive move happening, then it is the defender who dictates the action and then the reaction.

That is an extreme simplification of the call, but is exactly what I found when searching for some definition regarding “the call”.  Take a look at this post from NBA.com.

The post from NBA.com is dated 2001 and directory speaks to the ability for a player to land and even change direction when outside the lower box.  By that definition, the call against Battle against Florida was incorrect.  Even if he landed around the basket, his move was initiated outside the lane.  While this maybe be the rule in college, it does not seem to have that level of detail.  I did search for the NCAA rules, but what unable to find the rulebook online.

No matter what the call maybe, they greater issue may be the fact that “the call” varies greatly from game to game and ref to ref.  Which leads the the single most important trait in a referee: consistency.

From call to call, players and coaches are part of a guessing game to determine how the refs will call the game.  Every call leaves a small portion of interpretation, i.e. carrying, traveling, and three seconds in the lane.  But that amount of interpretation seems to vary great when the refs will allow a certain amount of physical play in the first half, but then could call a hand check in the second half.  And we all have seen it.

There have been many articles and quotes that have debated this issue to now end.  Yet, the block/charge issue is becoming dangerous. As players get stronger and faster, there is a need to limit the variation and solidify a standard that will stop the players looking for the easy charge (We won’t even go into flopping – whole other issue).

With greater concistency and preparation, payers will no longer be rewarded for sneaking over to anticapte the landing point of a player in the air.  Or an offensive player who lowers the shoulder, expecting a block call.  The charge/block is the call that needs consistency, period.  With a few, specific changes, “the call” will not be so difficult.

Wade’s Pace

Every good player that has any kind of jumping ability gets compared to Michael Jordan.  It happened to Kobe, to LeBron, to Wade.  Aspects for their games can be directly pointed to Jordan, but is more about influence, then imitation.

Just like the way Stevie Wonder as one of the main influences in today’s music.

Aside from the fact that they are three of the best players in the league, you can also see Jordan in Kobe’s killer instinct.  You see Jordan in LeBron’s ability to will his team to a victory.  And you see Jordan in Wade’s pace.  Not quickness, but his ability to get exactly what he needs without ever looking like he is pressing.

Kobe and LeBron – more LeBron – have moments when they are pressing so hard to make a play, that they end up in bad situations and then have to rely on their athletic gift’s to make up for the poor decision making.

But Wade always looks like he is taking a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk.  Not in a hurry to  do anything, but able to get what ever he wants on the floor. I have yet to see a defender predict Wade’s next move.

Random Thoughts in the Middle of Relaxation

As I sit in my “Spa Renewal Suite” with my wife – a gift from a friend – I am watching the Lakers and Hornets on the Sports Leader.

The Lakers start Kobe and Fisher in the back court and Odom, Walton, and Gasol up front.  Then off the bench they have Trevor Ariza, that point guard from UCLA who’s name I can’t remember, and that shooting guard who annoys the crap out of me and who’s name I can’t spell. And I am sure I forgot someone.  This is the deepest team in the NBA.Kobe Bryant

I know that Boston and Cleveland are strong in the east, but the Laker’s roster with the triangle offense - add a little spice from the Zen Master – you are looking at a team that just plays so well together.

And when the team struggles, you have Kobe to carry the team on his back.

If you watch the Lakers enough, you will notice that Jackson changes the offensive strategy when the second unit is on the floor.  While the first unit sticks to the triangle and then runs when it is available, the second unit pushes the pace from the word go.

You have to give Jackson credit for allowing the skills of those to dictate the play unlike most coaches who do the opposite.

The Lakers will win the game, but I love to watch Chris Paul play.  You can add Paul to the short list of young players who you would build a franchise around (along with LeBron, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams).

All-Star Weekend and Other Thoughts

Sunday evening I sat down in my favorite chair (or THE chair) and watched the annual “NBA player’s attempt at streetball” known as the All-Star game.  I was watching and waiting for the players to start over passing and throwing too many ally oops, taking too many threes and trying to make the behind the back pass when a simple chest bass would do.  I blinked a couple times, it was a little hazy, but I am pretty sure it I saw some defense – sort of.Kevin Durant

1.  All-Star Voting- The selection process for the NBA is completely a popularity contest and Commissioner David Stern is alright with that.  Names sell tickets.  But every season there are more and more deserving players who do not get a roster spot because of  players like Shaq, Allen Iverson, and Chauncey Billups.  The NBA must reexamine the process of both the starters and reserves, it’s ridiculous (most All-Star/All-Pro voting is a joke).

Kevin Durant and Al Jefferson were more than worthy, even if Jefferson is injured.  Durant is currently fifth in scoring averaging 25.5 points a game and has scored over 30 points in four of the last five games.  His monthly scoring average has increased at least 2.5 points each month.  Staring with 22.9 in Nov. to 30.8 in Feb.  PS – he won the H.O.R.S.E. competition during the break.

Jefferson is sitting seventh in scoring with 23.1 and sixth in rebounding pulling down 11 rebounds a game, plus 1.7 blocks shots a game.  Jefferson also shoots 50% from the field and was the leader of Minnesota’s semi-resurgence before going down with a season-ending knee injury.

2. Indiana Hoosiers lost another Big-Ten game.  No. 20 Illinois came to the ‘Dome and was only slighty pushed on their way to a 13 point win.  The outcome of the game is not why I mentioned the game.Tom Crean

I saw two things that should give Hoosier Nation a lot of hope.  First, I saw Ton Crean blast one of his players.  So what?  In the current situation, many coaches would probably try to keep everything light and happy and not really push this team because “they are not very good” and times are tough.  Not Crean and that is why I have a coach crush on him.  He ripped into his players like they had a chance to win the Big-Ten.  He reacted the same way Tom Izzo does when the MSU Spartans are struggling.  It was great.  

Secondly, the ‘Dome was packed.  I mentioned this in a recent post, but the Hoosier faithful understand and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - see Kentucky “Unforgettables” circa 1989.  But this year the Hoosier fans are at every game, knowing it is going to be difficult but waiting to explode with appreciation for the kids who are busting their butt to get them back to winning. 

3.  The Big East should changes it’s name to Big Beast.  Let me just a couple of the Big East’s physically imposing players.  PITT’s Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, UConn’s Jeff Adrein, Louisville’s Earl Clark, Terrance Williams, and Samardo Samuels, Notre Dame’s Luke Harongody, Syracuse’s Paul Harris and Arinze Onuaku.

There are so many physically dominating players, I am surprised more players have not been injured.  And there are more.

4.  Random Food for thought.  Vince Carter and T-Mac could have been a poor man’s (aka Toranto’s verison of) Jordan and Pippen.  Think about that for a minute.

5.  Duke and UNC played last week and the Tarheels won.  Not too surprised.  But then Boston College beat Duke 80-74.  Boston College has the two best wins in the ACC and probably won’t make the NCAA’s.

BC has Tyrese Rice, who is capable – and willing – to take and make big shots.  But there is no way in hell they should able to beat both UNC and Duke.  Especially, UNC in Raleigh.

6.  The NBA should implement a “You Are Unbelievably Stupid” clause where they can suspend players for being friggin’ idiots (could have been used many times in the past).  First case to go before the “Stupid Case Reviewing Type Guy” would be Phoenix Suns Jason Richardson.  Richardson was arrested going 90 mph in a 35 zone.  That is bad, but not the worst part.  His three year-old son was in the car and NOT in a car seat. 

ARE YOU SERIOUS!  

Were the getting chased by people with guns?  Because, unless someone is shooting at you and/or there is a major emergency, that child needs to be in the appropriate seat.  I am still waiting to hear from Richardson’s people to give an excuse – er – I mean reason.  As a father of a 2 1/2 year old – this really bothers me.Nate Robinson

7.  The slam dunk contest was fun to watch and didn’t take forever like it has in recent years.  Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard are both athletic freaks.  And they are young enough to participate in the contest again and again.

Other than Howard – Rudy Fernandez is the only other player I would take on my team.  Rudy is a solid athlete, great shooter, experienced in big international games, and he does everything very well.  JR Smith is good, but he – like Robinson – is a head case.

PS – LeBron threw his hat into next year’s contest.  So next year we could have Howard, Robinson, LeBron and Blake Griffin.  They better have extra rims on hand.

8.  Michael Phelps gets his FREEDOM.  I was thinking what a great waste of time it has been for the  South Carolina police trying to build a case, but what great publicity.

Kobe or LeBron? CP3 or Dwight? Which USA player is your franchise player?

From 8/14

Current MVP or the “Kid” almost guaranteed to win 3? The young talented point guard or the young talented center? Present or future?

With the almost “expansion like” feel of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s name contests and jersey submissions, it makes me wonder who is the perfect foundation to build a franchise upon.

So as the Redeem Team rolls through the Olympics and are on center stage of the basketball world, let’s look at Coach K’s crew to find that player, in no particular order.

D-Wade: He is always exceeding expectations, at every level. His run with the Heat to the championship is considered, by many, to be the single greatest playoff performance. He is athletic and smart. He knows his game and when he is “on”, there is little that most can do to stop him. He continues to expand his range on the court and off the court, Wade is as marketable as Kobe and LeBron. The two “issues” are his age and health. He is 3 years older (26) than LeBron and Paul and having battled so many injuries lately, you must wonder if he would be able to get back to his form of 2006 and maintain it. But if the Olympics are a preview, he is on his way.

Kobe: It is very easy to make the case for Kobe. He is a 3-time NBA Champ, MVP, scoring champ, first team all-everything member, and if last year was not a fluke, a real leader. But Kobe will turn 30 on Aug. 23rd. That is not to say he will not be able to carry a team in the short-term, but would need help in the long-term. And typically expansion teams are thin on help. Yet, Kobe has international appeal that few in the game have, so no matter what number he might switch to, people are going to buy the jersey.

LeBron: 23 years old, averages 27 and 7, and has proven very durable. LBJ may be the front runner. He gained “one-name” status straight-out of high school (probably while he was still in high school) and his face is everywhere; Nike, Coke, PowerAde and of course, Bubblicious. He ranks with Tiger as the most recognizable athlete in the US and is certain to sell-out stadiums. Loyalty may be LeBrons down fall. Can he play for team with out talking about future options? Will he see your team through the storm and lead them to the championship?

Dwight Howard: Best center in the league? No question. Only a healthy Yao can affect play like Howard can. With every ounce of muscle he puts on, combined with the vertical and “freak of nature” factor, Howard comes closer to that true ELITE Center Status last achieved by Shaq. His personality and charisma might even be more user-friendly than the Big – Aristotle. Howard, at time, takes control of games on both ends of the court. I believe he is a PG away from completely owning the league; he is not yet able to create on offense the whole game. Imagine Howard and Chris Paul on the same team. I just got chills.

Carmelo: As a NBA player, Melo underachieves. As an international player, he is great. Melo has put up great numbers in the past for the Nuggets and led some so-so teams to the playoffs. He is undoubtedly talented and knows how to score (24.4 pts. avg. for his career). But, going into his 6th NBA season, he is still one dimensional. His attitude and off-the-court problems would to be a huge issue with the new fan base. On-the-court, he is more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan. So Melo needs to prove that he can win without LeBron on his side. Remeber, the Bulls did not do too much without that Jordan guy.

Chris Paul: I am still not sure why he did not win MVP. Take him off the Hornets and the team does not make the playoffs. He makes his team better and is a true PG. He is able to see and make passes people thought were only possible by Kidd and Nash. He will become a better shooter than the former and is already a better athlete than both. What makes Paul even a more appealing franchise player is that he is great person (that’s what I have heard) and showed the class and compassion needed in New Orleans. And he is only 23.

Deron Williams: Taken before Chris Paul by a team that has the highest expectations of a point guard in the NBA. Williams broke out in the Playoffs of 2007 and continues to evolve. He is tough, strong, a good shooter and passer, and able to create for himself AND others. He also has the confidence and ability to lead a veteran team. Even though he is not yet a house hold name like some of the others on the team, I think that changes this year, he is still on this team for a reason.

Chris Bosh: He has the potential and talent, just like every other person in the top-5 picks of the 2003 draft NOT named Darco. He is tall (6’10”) and athletic. His careers averages of 19 pts and 9 rebounds are solid. He does not need to add greatly to the points, but needs fill-up the rest of the stat sheet. Having played only one year at Georgia Tech, he is only 24, and should be able to grow into a more dominant big man. Maybe running against Howard everyday for couple months will help.

Not an easy call or maybe it is. For me it comes down to two people; LeBron or Paul. Either way you are setting yourself up nicely for the beginning of your franchise.

Having to pick from this group would be a problem every GM wishes they had.