NBA refs can rule reckless closeouts as flagrants
NEW YORK (AP):
NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's play-offs.
Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.
Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.
"It's 100 per cent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice-president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said yesterday.
The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. But the play got renewed attention during the play-offs because of Leonard's injury, and also one in which Washington forward Markieff Morris landed on Al Horford's foot in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi final, knocking him out of a game the Celtics rallied to win.