MORE READER QUESTIONS
QUESTION: If a player is violently throwing his elbows toward an opponent's head to intimidate him, does contact have to occur for an official to call a foul?
ANSWER: Yes. But let's start by making a distinction between a "violation" and a "foul." If it occurs as you described, an attempt to intimidate but without contact, an official can call a "violation" for "excessive swinging of elbows." (Rule 9.13) This is most commonly seen by a rebounder who has just gotten control of a ball and is trying to keep defenders away. However, this violation is seldom called. All too often, officials will choose not to take the ball away from the rebounding team by calling a violation and will warn the player to use more caution with his elbows going forward. If the same type of play occurs later, it will be easy to call the violation.
On the other hand, if contact occurs, there is a wide assortment of decisions for the official to make. If the contact is seen as "brush contact" he may simply go with "incidental contact" and make "no call" OR he could call the violation as above. But if the contact is in the torso below the neck, the official is likely to rule a "player control" foul. (no shots, ball to opponent) If the contact is seen as "excessively rough" OR "above the neck" OR with "obvious intent" the official will probably call an "intentional foul." (penalty: 2 shots plus the ball) Lastly, if the contact is above the neck and seen as particularly violent or dangerous, it may be ruled as a "flagrant foul" (penalty: ejection of the offending player, plus 2 free throws and the ball for the team that was fouled.) This entire scenario is consistent with an overall concern for player safety. You can see that it is a measured progression wherein the severity of the penalty is based on the action seen and the potential for injury.
QUESTION: If my opponent scores, I know the inbound pass can be made along the baseline to a teammate who also is out of bounds. But, if there is a timeout called before the pass is made, does that negate the legality of the pass when play resumes?
ANSWER: No. When play resumes following the timeout, the player may still make that pass along the baseline to a teammate who also is out of bounds. Further, if there is a foul by the defense during the inbound pass situation, the offense still retains the ability to pass along the baseline as above.
QUESTION: Is it possible for there to be a player control foul without the player falling upon contact? For example, player A is on a fast-break with the ball and is met by player B who establishes legal guarding position and goes straight up. Contact is made but not enough for player B to fall or lose positioning. An offensive foul is called on player A. Is this the correct call? Can an offensive foul be called without the player even falling?
ANSWER: Yes. The key words are "displace" and "dislodge." If the offensive player wards off the defender, creates space by warding off, or somehow "displaces" or "dislodges" the defender, that's all it takes for a player control foul. If his actions cause him to gain an advantage, that will often be enough. There is nothing that requires the defender to have to be knocked down......and, that's as it should be. This is basketball which, although it is a "contact sport," is NOT football or rugby.
QUESTION: Define the rule of verticality: Many times our bigs are going straight up and still being called for fouls when their legs and arms are parallel. Too many times our bigs are picking up 3 or 4 fouls a game by their use of textbook verticality.
ANSWER: Great question! I'm not sure my answer will necessarily satisfy you, but here goes.
The answer starts with a basketball principle that essentially states that any player is entitled to any spot on the floor provided he gets there first and gets there legally. He is also entitled to the space above and below from floor to ceiling. That's the basic idea of "verticality." But, as you might imagine, it cannot be precisely defined due to the fluidness of basketball. There must be some allowance made for the size of the players, how they are standing or moving, as well as the fact that players in motion do not tend to arrive at a given spot at exactly the same time.
So, let's hypothetically imagine your big gets to a spot first and takes a legal guarding position standing straight up with his arms straight up directly in the path of his moving opponent. BY RULE, your big has done everything exactly by the book. The reality is that this is rarely what happens, agreed?? So, the usefulness of the "textbook" is marginalized by the situation. Typically, the offensive and defensive players are moving, adjusting, positioning, etc and it's all happening in the flow of the play. The official is observing, holding his whistle unless or until he sees something involving "contact." But contact is not a foul! The official isn't looking for any old contact.....he's looking for contact where someone is (and here are the key words) "dislodged" or "displaced" in ways where one of the players "gains an advantage" or is "placed at a disadvantage" by the contact. This is where, in the blink of an eye, the official's judgement comes in to play. The Rule Book is useful as a guide but it cannot be expected to precisely define every moving situation. The official may see the contact as being "incidental" and of no consequence. Neither player is affected much, so the official goes with "no call." OR, the official may see the contact, even if slight, as dislodging or displacing enough to cause an advantage or disadvantage. "BEEP!" He blows his whistle and calls a foul and, can you believe, it's against your big?? Oh NO!! How can that be?? Just think for a moment...... what are the odds that the play was absolutely clear cut, 100% no question as to who caused what to whom? I'd say it's rare. So, we know a decision must be made by the official. What if the play is more like 50/50 but a decision must be made? What if your big is barely affected by the offensive player and the official sees that the offensive player actually put himself at a disadvantage? The savvy official will go with "no call." (You may not be experiencing this, but it would be nice if you were!) Or, what if there were some type of subtle movement by your big into the offensive player, creating slight contact from a slide of the hip or belly or a gentle push with the lower body? Or what if your big's hands and arms were slightly angled into the vertical space of the shooter and at the moment the shot is taken, those hands or arms are seen by the official as not only violating the vertical space of the shooter but also being in contact just enough to jostle the shooter a bit? AND, as the play ends (after the contact) you swear that his arms are pretty much straight now. But that's not how the official saw it.....he saw that those arms didn't quite start where they ended up......the arms were definitely in the vertical space of the shooter when the contact occurred and those same arms ended up a bit straighter right after the whistle blew? A few inches may or may not make a difference.....
Those are the types of observations the official must make in a split second. He may be dealing with a 50/50 situation but the contact requires a decision. If you were in his shoes, isn't it possible that YOUR call would tend to lean in favor of the offense? Believe me, it will. Not because of anything so incredibly obvious that the defender did wrong, but more because in the movements of the players, the contact (such as it is....) is going to affect the offensive player more than the defender. It's part of what makes "trying to draw a foul" (a term we've all heard a 1000 times.....) another aspect of the decision making process. It would be rare to see ANY game (high school to NBA) where those types of "touch fouls" are not disagreed with....and all officials understand that. But strong officials learn to discern what needs to be done and live with those decisions.
Once you get this picture, you will appreciate that a battle tested, veteran official will tend to get these plays right FAR more often than not. He will be EXPERT at distinguishing what needs to be called and what he can "pass on." He will NOT BE RIGHT every single time!! He will make mistakes!! He will go with what he felt the play deserved under the varying circumstances. And, in the end, the veteran will get those calls right a lot more often than the less experienced officials.
The best you can hope for is rational decision making by the officials. And if they get it wrong, hopefully it's in your favor about the same number of times as when it's not in your favor. Decisions like this go on all game long. They tend to even out over the course of a game and RARELY have much impact on the outcome of the game. My best advice would be to make a quick assessment of how contact decisions are being made and try to keep your players from picking up more than two fouls in the first half. That should serve you well from game to game.