From the league’s crackdown on foul baiting and non-basketball moves by offensive players to pleas to eliminate the “take fouls” that have been preventing fastbreaks, rule changes have been one of the biggest topics of conversation over the first few weeks of this new NBA season.
Early in the fourth quarter, LaMelo Ball was being hounded by Juan Toscano-Anderson near midcourt. After nearly losing control of the ball, he regathered and gained a step on the overeager Warriors defender. Seeing an open lane ahead of him, Ball burst towards the rim with thoughts of a poster dunk. Instead, he quickly came crashing back down to earth and landed awkwardly on his arm and side.
That’s because Steph Curry came over from the weakside and slid underneath Ball after he had already gathered to go to the rim. Curry ends up clipping Ball’s legs, which causes him to lose control in mid-air. Thankfully, the young Hornets star appeared to have escaped without a serious injury, but it could have been much worse.
Curry himself should know. Just five games into the 2019-20 season, he was driving to the basket when Aron Baynes of the Phoenix Suns slid in late and essentially hip-checked him out of mid-air. Curry broke his hand in the ensuing fall and missed the rest of the season.
The NBA’s primary goals with their recent approach to rule changes have been to eliminate non-basketball plays and keep players safe. Well, there’s nothing more unsafe and against the spirit of basketball than sliding underneath someone in mid-air and attempting to just get in their way instead of going up to block the shot.
While Baynes and Curry obviously weren’t trying to cause injury, intent doesn’t matter here, just as it doesn’t in close-out situations on the 3-point line. The league has correctly tried to legislate reckless close-outs out of the game by upgrading them to flagrant fouls. They should do the same with the late slide-in charge attempt, which is a dangerous play that doesn’t belong in the game.