Delay Of Game: Refs, Players Adjusting

VIDEO: Bulls’ delay of game

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The NBA’s newest rule crackdown has created quite a stir. Players are reprogramming their actions, some quicker than others. Some announcers are misconstruing the rule’s intent. And fans are wondering why a delay of game penalty seems only to be causing further delay.

“Right now, it’s slowing down the game because of all the stoppages,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But these players are great and they always adapt. As they get used to it, they’re going to leave it alone and it’ll work out. So whatever the rules are, that’s what you go by. And I think it got to the point where it was too much.”

Too much, as Thibs says, was constant under-the-basket interference with the ball. Players on the team that had just scored were too often grabbing the ball as it dropped through the net and either casually flipping it to the official or tapping it any which way but to the opposing player waiting to get his team running up the court.

A growing number of teams — the Houston Rockets, for one — prefer to push the ball up the floor after made baskets to catch the retreating defense at a disadvantage. The stall tactic of catching the ball or knocking it away after a made basket buys the scoring team a second or two to set up defensively.

“I used to hit the ball a little bit to give me a second or two,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert admitted. “But now you can’t.”

Now, such actions result in a delay of game penalty. The first draws a warning. The second results in a technical foul and a free throw for the other team.

Everybody received a heaping dose of the new rule during the preseason.

“It’s the right thing and it’s pretty clear,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, a member of the league’s nine-member competition committee. “If you touch it you know you’re getting hit, so just leave it alone.”

Said Pacers coach Frank Vogel: “Guys are learning to ‘hot potato’ it. They tell us to treat it like a ‘hot potato’ and move on.”

The Rockets were the most vocal agent for change. Their frustration came to a head during their first-round playoff series with Oklahoma City, who, the Rockets believed, were intentionally messing with the ball after made baskets to slow them down. In fact, under the new rules, the Thunder were nailed three times for the infraction in their season-opener against Utah and Wednesday against the high-pace Mavericks. Center Kendrick Perkins used his big right paw to intentionally swat the ball away, drawing a whistle for delay of game.

VIDEO: Thunder delay of game

Some announcers, ironically including Houston’s, have explained the rule as being designed to shorten the duration of a game. But it’s really about the pace at which the game is played.

Houston led the NBA last season in pace (possessions per 48 minutes). The club calculated that it had scored 1,131 points on the initial shot taken in 10 seconds or less after a basket by the other team. No team came close. The Lakers were second with 972 transition points after made baskets. Getting the ball up the floor quickly, even after made baskets, was paramount to the Rockets’ offensive strategy.

“A team like us that plays an up-tempo pace, it [the new rule] definitely should favor us,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “We want to get up. We want to get the ball out as fast as we can. Not having teams do that and slow us down on the break is definitely going to help us a lot.”

While the Rockets were out front on the issue, they were hardly the only ones arguing for the league to take action. The push gained steamed throughout last season, according to Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations. The NBA decided to take a closer look during the 2013 playoffs and found that, in a sample of 78 playoff games, the new delay of game penalty could have been enforced 306 times, or 3.9 times a game.

“It had been talked about before that it was a detriment to the offensive team if the team that had just scored was taking the ball and knocking it away or holding the ball and was allowing the defenses to get back and get set up, and that that was not a good thing for our game,” Thorn said. “So that was the genesis for why it was put in. A lot of teams like to move the ball up and down the floor so we want to give them every opportunity.”

The penalty was one of five officiating points of emphasis for this season. A crackdown on illegal screens has produced a spike in those calls, according to the league. The league also has seen a rise in delay of game penalties. Everybody’s noticed. How could you not? The preseason was littered with the call, and officials have kept a tight watch during the first week of the regular season.

According to the league, through the first 59 games last season, 22 delay of game penalties were called. Through 59 games this season (through Tuesday’s games) 85 delay of game penalties were called — 70 being a result of the new rule.

“You have to play with great discipline to be a good player in this league,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “To not be able to bat the ball away when it goes through the basket should not be that hard of a thing, especially when it costs your team points.”

The fear  is that the rule will be enforced to the letter of the law and that an untimely touching of the ball late in the game could cost a team a valuable point. During the preseason, players were concerned that they’d get tagged with a penalty for making incidental contact or for an instinctual catch of the ball and quick toss to the referee.

“It is instinctual to reach for it, that’s why I said, even if the ball hits you when you’re right by it and it does touch you, they can’t call it,” said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who nonetheless thinks players will quickly adjust to the rule.

According to Thorn, if a player catches the ball and quickly drops it, play will continue. Same for incidental contact.

“I think they’ve kind of, maybe, toned it down a little bit as they realized that, ‘OK, some of the calls that were being made were not in the truest sense of the law,'” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “I think the referees in the league have done a great job of making it a point of emphasis and then analyzing it and saying, ‘OK, is this what we want?’ They’ve kind of adjusted how they’ve called it, I think, a little bit as well.”

VIDEO: Delay of game, Lakers

Many who observe the league have seen new rules implemented and enforced early in the season, only to see them fade away into rules oblivion. Thorn believes the rule will not be an ongoing source of game delays because players will quickly adjust. And the rule, Thorn said, will not go by the wayside. It will continue to be enforced throughout the season and postseason to ensure the faster pace that players and fans want.

“I’m confident that it will,” Thorn said.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Fran Blinebury, John Schuhmann and Steve Aschburner contributed to this report.


  1. john says:

    Well, from what I have been seeing recently, ref’s been over abusing this new rule. This past game today between OKC and Washington…. There was a play that Durant dunked the ball, and it landed right to Westbrook’s hand’s and they called a delay game on him. What the heck was he suppose to do in that situation. He let go of the ball right away after he caught it. It’s a stupid rule in some sense because players don’t get consideration when the ball flies in their direction after the shot. Obviously they’ll have the instinct to catch it, why would they want to get smacked by a ball.

  2. Mike Montero says:

    I agree! the rule is stupid..

    What they should have done is, instead of giving the other team a free throw shot. They should just inbound it to the half court line, the team that is awarded can quickly move up the court faster and it eliminates their “8 second violation”. perfect example for a “delay of game rule”

    A FREE THROW CAN CHANGE THE OUTCOME OF THE GAME! . for example; an offensive player tied the game with a dunk, or lay-up with 1 second remaining in the game, and he accidentally touch the ball.. then the other team is awarded to “win the game”.

    If an offensive player “accidentally” touch the ball after a dunk, it is not the player’s fault, its the mentally/ “instinct” that comes after doing a dunk.. you move the ball out of your way…

  3. sports fan says:

    This is a great rule. As soon as the basket is made then there is no reason at all for the the team that made the basket to touch the ball. If the ball is handed to the ref then the team that needs to inbound can’t inbound as quickly if they did it themselves. Pro players always adjust to new rules. As soon as it goes in – DON’T TOUCH IT! And if you’re paid anywhere from 6 figures to millions then you just better run back faster to get set on defense.

  4. Basketball Jones says:

    I’m happy they’re enforcing this rule. Everyone that’s saying this is a dumb rule doesn’t know basketball. This rule is present from first year house leagues all the way up to college. For run and gun teams, touching the ball delays them, F uck outta here with “a stupid rule” Don’t touch the ball after you score, it’s simple.

  5. SoulChorea says:

    Imagine how game-altering a stupid call like this is gonna be during PLAYOFF TIME

  6. SoulChorea says:

    This is stupid. Especially after a dunk and the ball comes right at you, you’re naturally gonna hit it away from you. The post-Stern era is gonna be as nit-picky as before!

  7. Jmac says:

    I like this rule, like in soccer, its called time wasting, it is just fustrating the other team with holding on to the ball and allowing your team an advantage to get up court.

  8. fiba rules says:

    this rule makes sense. this rule(delay of game) is being intentionally used by teams not only after made baskets but in crucial situations to see the play in hand. I think the stingier enforcement of the rule is to address the delaying tactics by melting a second or two of running time after a made field goal. the tactics come in handy not only to disrupt the pace but to shorten the time of teams to make a rally back in the game.

    this rule is strictly enforced in FIBA. we want our players learn to respect the rules and the game itself if they don’t do these infractions no whistles will be blown

  9. dbc says:

    i agree

  10. lebranjomes says:

    great rule, cheater are the only ones crying.

  11. J says:

    It’s weird

  12. LBJmyKING says:

    Who came up with this rule… offensive player throws the ball to the ref anyways most the time

  13. wade says:

    if an offensive player touches the ball after a made basket… its a delay of game… the rule is pretty much simple… its a way to remove the advantage on setting up the defense on the other side of the court….

  14. Tyrone says:

    Eventually they’ll adjust. The longer a guy has been hitting the ball after a play, the longer it will take him to not engage in that habit.

  15. Smaboxx says:

    Great rule! It will keep the pace of the game up and encourage quick transitions. It’s cheap if you can grab the ball and give your team a freebie moment to get set. When the habit is broke we will all enjoy the quicker play, but for now I agree it’s getting old. I am willing to wait, I think it will pay off for us fans in the end

  16. ictoan says:

    This is a rule which needs to be enforced. Once the shot is made, there’s no reason for the scoring team to touch the ball. It’s a change of possession. Up-tempo teams need to be able to play their game without interference.
    This is also why up-tempo teams can have their nets be shorter (regulation nets must be between 15″ and 18″ long). Shorter nets allow the ball to go through ever-so-slightly faster and transitions can start quicker.

    • fil says:

      agree.. a lot of players are also using the delay to set their defense faster .this is by giving the ball to the ref. after the shot was made all people here whose saying it is a dumb rule doesn’t really sees it. when the players gets accustom to this, the game can get faster than before.. count on it

  17. SSDD says:

    This rule is stupid for a number of reasons, but i’ll name the biggest.

    What they’re doing for the most part isn’t malicious. Kaman literally gave him the ball so it wouldn’t bounce away. Let them play basketball.

  18. the bomb says:

    honestly a dumb rule, some people the ball my instint or reaction , she shouldnt be penalized for it. they should only cll delay of game if someone intentionally touches the ball to slow the other team down.

  19. Jerrod says:

    So for the nice basketball player trying to get the ball to the ref he gets penalized. That’s just dumb

    • Basketball Jones says:

      @Jerrod You’re an idiot, the ref doesn’t need to hand the inbounding team the ball after a made basket. This only occurs in dead ball situations, therefore this is a delay of the game. Smarten up.

  20. Joel says:

    This has been a rule of basketball for years, you are finally realising it needs policing. If you score, leave the ball alone. It is no longer yours until you can get it back. The other team deserves to get the ball in as soon as possible, not when the opposition dictates.

  21. Jordan says:

    This is the right thing to do.

    It always annoys when playing pickup ball and players use this delaying tactic – it’s unsportsmanlike.

    Wasn’t there a similar thing with hanging on the rim a few years ago? Then taunting? These are all positive changes that help the flow of the game and encourage good sportsmanship.

    • stupid says:

      what the nba official’s and ruling members don’t get is that… its common to touch the ball after it goes into the hoop especially if you dunk the ball or get an inside shot. its been done from day 1

  22. Hannes says:

    Only thing I really don’t understand is, why it wasn’t a story during the preseason.
    Should all have been adjusted by now…

  23. Batman says:

    Rule is okay but the calls are not being called the right way. If the ball drops on kaman, he should not be called for it. It was not on purpose and those kind of wrong calls just slows down any momentum of the game. Might as well stretch during these calls. Good night gotham city.

  24. RFMR says:

    Players need to adjust, they are professional, and the rules are the rules, NO MORE COMPLAIN.

  25. Da Beast says:

    The delay of game rule IS a delay of game. It’s so dumb.

  26. saul says:

    If it ain’t broke,don’t fix it.smh.

    • matt says:

      It is broke, i think that’s the point. Any team that wants to play high tempo is at a disadvantage every time the other team scores.

      If the rule was called ‘ball obstruction’ or ‘ball tampering’ or something, this article wouldn’t have even needed to be written.

    • Ben says:

      It was broke(n). That’s the point. It allowed defensive teams to do something which can only be described as deliberately obstructing the other teams progress, to slow down offensive teams and thus deliberately lessen their chances of scoring. While I won’t criticise players for using the tactic (use whatever is available to you), it is a tactic which is manifestly unfair and definitely should be considered cheating. And now it is considered cheating, and it won’t lessen the chance of the other team scoring if done because they will get a technical free throw opportunity, so it has also de-incentivised using it as a tactic.

  27. Skolimowski says:

    It will not slow the game down once players get used to it.

    • skrutz says:

      Exactly! Dumb comments being made about it being a bad rule. Add any new rule, and players need to adjust. While they adjust, its bound to get called more often than it should – but thats part of learning!

  28. Lastwave says:

    its clear that none of the people commenting actually read the article. if you read it they tell you exactly why they did it. believe it or not it makes sense.

    • Lowly Roller says:

      I like this rule too. People who play know that when you want to run, the other team needs to leave the ball alone but they don’t so they can get an unfair advantage. This rule is not stupid.

      • Stan says:

        Agreed, the only irony is that the rule is better for all the fans who love uptempo basketball – which are going to be some of the same people complaining about the rule because they are so caught up in a name.

  29. Craig says:

    This is a must have rule, leave it alone and let the other team play on.
    Delay of game is exactly what they are doing.

  30. sikhumbuzo damini says:

    this new rule is stupid

  31. Frank says:

    The irony of this rule…

    • Ben says:

      The rule is ironic, but only because it is CALLED delay of game, not because of the purpose of the rule. I guess the name of the rule is what confuses people.

  32. Akatsuki says:

    It’s an annoying rule. All it does is delay the game even more when the refs blow their whistles. They’re just giving extra points to the other team.

  33. stupid says:

    THis is by far the dumbest rule ever created