NBA Players And Coaches Explain Why Scores And Pace Are The Highest They’ve Been In Decades

The restrictions placed upon the player by the rules are intended to create a balance of play, equal opportunity for the defense and the offense, provide reasonable safety and protection for all players and emphasize cleverness and skill without unduly limiting freedom of action of player or team.

That freedom of action is a pretty loose term, and that restriction it’s putting on defenses is clearly leading to more offense. That’s exactly what veteran Warriors guard Shaun Livingston thinks, believing that the higher scores are definitely league generated in that regard.

“The fouls early on were being just ridiculous, illegal screens, stuff like that,”Livingston said on a recent visit to Brooklyn. “Then it was inconsistent as far as hand checks, stuff like that. I mean, what’s a foul? What’s not a foul?”

In addition to the new rules being tough on defending players, it’s tough for coaches as well.

“Players and officials are still trying to adapt to what’s a foul,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “And really, different nights, different games, it somewhat changes.”

Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talks to his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Every referee interprets rules in different ways, especially for something as ambiguous as freedom of motion. Nets center Jarrett Allen said that freedom of motion is something that he and other players keep in the back of their heads while defending.

“It’s very difficult to call a game with some of the emphasis that we have,” McMillan said. “If you’ve got two hands on a guy, whether you’re impeding his motion or not, it’s a foul and some nights it’s not.”

It’s definitely been tough for referees as well, McMillan said, adding that fouls could really be called on every possession. Allen doesn’t think referees are calling things tighter than last year, but there are simply just more rules to call fouls on. He thinks they’re trying to be more consistent with that.

Brooklyn Nets center Jarrett Allen during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“I don’t think they want to interfere with the flow of the game,” McMillan said about the refs. “So we all are going to have to adapt to it and adjust to how the officials are calling the game that particular night.”

Another new rule this season is adopted from the international game, which is re-setting the shot clock to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound rather than the full 24.

“It speeds the game up, for sure,” Livingston said. And that, of course, is the point. It leads the faster decisions on offense, a quicker pace and more points on the board.

Young believes that the 14 on the clock has had a bigger impact on the game than the other newly implemented rules. Allen has noticed teams just going to pick and roll more rather than going to a totally new set or play.

“We’ve been practicing for it,” Young— who’s been so used to kicking the ball back out after an offensive rebound and setting up another — said. “It’s one of those things that when you get in the game, you still forget. We’ll bring the ball back out and it’ll be ‘14?!’”

So is this big increase in scoring and pace going to last? Or is just merely a blip?

“As the season wears on, the grind is gonna catch up,” Livingston said, believing that teams will adjust and scores will eventually get lower.

Young strongly disagrees.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a dip,” he said. “The way the game is going, it’s being put out there that we want a faster-paced game, we want a more up-tempo game that’s gonna score tons and tons of points because that’s what the fans want.”

Ultimately, the NBA and every other sports league is a consumer-driven business. Give the people what they want, or they’ll start looking elsewhere.

“I think all sports want to see more scoring,” McMillan said.

So far in the NBA this season, mission accomplished, at levels that we haven’t seen in a very long time. 

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