Flopping Aside, New Flagrant Foul Replay Rule Could Have Bigger Impact


DALLAS — The NBA’s new flopping rule has captured everyone’s attention, but a rule tweak that could prove to be far more impactful this season — and especially in the playoffs — was successfully implemented in the final minute of Monday’s game between the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers.

The replay review of flagrant fouls makes all kinds of good sense.

As the Mavs were polishing off a massive fourth-quarter run to break open a close game and bury the Blazers 114-91, Dallas rookie Jae Crowder drove the lane. Sasha Pavlovic wrapped his arms around him and Crowder went crashing to the floor. At first glance, in the heat of a game gone haywire for Portland, it could have been interpreted as an unnecessary, potentially dangerous, frustration foul worthy of being ruled a flagrant.

Under the new replay rule, the officiating crew of Joey Crawford, Kane Fitzgerald and Marat Kogut went under the hood, so to speak, to take a look. Upon further review, they correctly determined that Pavlovic’s foul was not “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent,” the requirement  for a Flagrant 1, the lesser of the league’s two flagrant foul penalties, so Pavlovic was charged with a routine personal foul.

Crowder was awarded two free throws. A Flagrant 1 would have resulted in two free throws and possession. In a blowout such as this, it was inconsequential from results standpoint. But in a tight game, the replay review can be significant.

“I think you need to be able to review those because it’s too important of a call not to get it right,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “That’s why you have the replay. You trust the judgment of the referees; they look at all the angles. NBA referees are terrific and given the benefit of replay, they’re going to get it right.”

Replay can help a team avoid an unnecessary penalty if wrongfully called for a flagrant foul on the floor, and a player can also escape individual penalty. A Flagrant 2 foul results in an instant ejection. In the aftermath, a player receives one penalty point for a Flagrant 1 and two points for a Flagrant 2. Exceeding five points during the season will net an automatic one-game suspension and then further suspensions with each additional flagrant foul.

Replay kept Pavlovic’s slate clean.

“When one of those situations happens, in real time those things are so hard to judge if you’re an official,” said Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, one of three coaches on the league’s revamped competition committee, “because you’re at ground level, guys are bigger; sometimes you get screened by bodies and then to make that call, especially if it’s a Flagrant 2 and have to have it stand and you eject a guy without looking at it, it just doesn’t make sense. I believe it’s the right adjustment to the rule. I haven’t heard anybody say different. I think everybody likes it.”

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