New York Knicks News: NBA’s block-charge rule is broken

Tom Thibodeau with Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Tom Thibodeau with Andrew Wiggins (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

We all know that professional wrestling is an exhibition with a predetermined outcome. For most of us, it’s an enjoyable form of entertainment. But the NBA is a professional sport where competition produces the final results. We expect fairly officiated games.

There have always been bad calls by the officials, and they will continue. But the rules should be clearly defined and parameters delineated to avoid questionable decisions by the refs as much as possible. Legalized sports gambling makes accurate officiating even more imperative.

The worst and most inconsistent calls are of the block-charge variety, and New York Knicks fans are no stranger to this. But first, let’s look at the open floor situation. The rule states the defender merely needs to establish legal guarding position in order to draw a charge.

“To get into a legal position, the defender needs to establish himself in the path of the offensive player before contact is made, thus ‘beating him to the spot.'”

Yet, when an offensive player’s shoulder comes into contact with the defender’s chest, it’s more often than not called a block. If the chest is there, and not the shoulder, hip, side or back, the defender must have been there first, beating the offensive man ”to the spot.” Offensive favoritism is in play here, not the rule book. The same holds true of shooters who jump sideways or backwards. These are not natural shooting motions and should result in an offensive foul being called. Sorry, but it’s true.

Every rule misinterpretation does not favor the offense, however. When a player slides into a blocking position on a dribbler driving to the basket — a true 50-50 play — the refs flip a coin, and make an arbitrary call. Here is the rule:

“The defensive player may establish a legal guarding position in the path of the offensive player who received a pass inside the lower defensive box, regardless of speed or distance, by beating him to the spot. However, he must always allow an airborne offensive player the space to land.”

Let’s simplify the rules and then enforce them as written. In the case of the offensive player lowering his shoulder and driving into a defender’s chest, the rule is already clear. The defender must have beaten the offensive player to the spot for it to be an offensive foul.

As for the slide block, the rule should be changed. There are two parts to this. The first situation is one in which the driver is closely defended before his final dribble. Here, the “beat him to the spot” should apply. If the offensive man creates the contact while being closely guarded, then it’s an offensive foul. No change in the rule is necessary — just the fair application of it.

The second situation occurs when an offensive player has a clear path to the basket and a defender slides into his path. Modify the rule to give the offensive player a step and a half before a charge can be whistled. A last-second slide would then clearly be a block and the refs would have no trouble making the correct call. The slide-under is also an invitation to injury and is another reason why it should be discouraged.

It’s very frustrating for anyone interested in the NBA to have calls being made that are arbitrary and inconsistent. The block-charge calls are the most capricious in the game.

Another change that would help to eliminate bad calls has to do with the back-line official. Although they may be the closest referee to the action around the basket, too often they are shielded by the players’ bodies from seeing what has actually occurred. Yet they blow the whistle and make an educated guess on a play they can’t fully see. There shouldn’t be a primary official required to call a foul based on proximity. The sideline officials probably have better views on many of these plays and should be required to make the calls.

Collaboration is key to removing bad calls from the game. That’s why there are three referees. Let’s fix this before next year please.