[From time to time Blazer's Edge likes to promote our readers' thought-provoking posts to the front page. Today, Devenex discusses the problems inherent in advantageous fouling. We may do minor editing to clean up the original Fanpost, but the content won't change. -- Tim]
Anyone who has been reading Truehoop lately (especially today) will probably have at least browsed through some discussion of the dangers of hard fouls and player safety. Again, Henry Abbott has authored several very specific posts today, which are most likely in response to yesterday's Bulls/Heat game.
As tempted as I am to go off on the "poor, poor LeBron having to deal with those mean men trying to hurt him" routine I'm going to bypass this as I want to go into the point he seems to more strongly present which is the league is at fault for not stopping "tackle basketball." I'm not so sure the league is at fault, as this would take some serious rule changes to put in balance. Maybe more than can be done without making it almost another sport altogether.
Rules have already been put in place to protect the fast break/players (clear path fouls) and in my opinion they have had more of a circus effect. Players still foul, they just attempt to run in front of the ball first and create this whole "was he in front or behind" drama that causes the refs to huddle and discuss for several minutes while what amounts to a free possession hangs in the balance (even more exciting than free throws!). Could you imagine this happening for every hard foul? What if fouling a dunking player gave three ft's instead of two? While it might seem more exciting for the fans (more dunks, less ft's... YAY!) any excitement would quickly be countered by video reviews and huddles to decide whether it was a layup or a dunk attempt. Also offensively minded players would no doubt try to exploit this, I don't have to work too hard to imagine Kevin Durant making a tomahawk motion every time he gets fouled in the paint. Now I'm not throwing this out as an idea, but merely to demonstrate that a rule change can easily carry unexpected consequences. Another example would be trying to reduce hits to the head (an honorable intention) by deeming them to be an automatic flagrant foul. How long before slashing players like Dwayne Wade start aiming for controlled head hits (really an extension of the prevalent jumping into a defender's body for whistles)?
OK, so enough hypothetical examples! Point is basketball is by design going to have moments where there is an incentive to foul intentionally and/or hard. My proposed idea to reduce (I don't think you can remove them completely) these moments would be to have the NBA go down to 5 fouls before ejection from the current 6. Players in high school, college, international and even rec leagues all play with 5 fouls per game, while the NBA is is the sole league I am aware of that allows 6. This would not alter the pro game much, and in fact would help bring it into line with everyone else while also increasing the penalty of giving a foul and shifting the balance of favorability associated with fouling/not-fouling.
What do you guys think? If you have any ideas for rule changes or general thoughts about this (or even just criticism of my old man 90's NBA smash-everything-in-nikes-RAWWWR outlook on basketball) then please chime in!