The official label of the rule change might seem nondescript, but the ripple effects it’s bringing about are noteworthy.
New for the 2018-19 season, stipulated by item No. 12 (B), Section 1 in the NBA Rule Book, players are no longer permitted to “hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent,” or do anything else that would instantly cause the man they’re guarding to be “re-routed.”
That means no more using hands, legs, knees, or other body parts in ways that officials would deem “not normal.”
Referees have specifically been instructed to stay on top of violations like wrapping up an offensive player, pushing or steering with two hands, holding, or disrupting the path of a screener rolling to the bucket.
Why implement the changes?
The league wanted to increase freedom of movement.
Between the preseason, and Tuesday’s opener, the 76ers have been doing their best to get a sense of how games will be called.
“You just got to adjust,” Ben Simmons said following the Sixers’ 105-87 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Over their four exhibition outings, the Sixers averaged slightly under 30 fouls per game, about eight more than their average from last season.
While a handful of factors could be attributed to this spike – things like players reacclimating themselves to game speed, or first-time teammates feeling each other out – the updated officiating points of emphasis, players and coaches have acknowledged, are taking some getting used to.
In addition to focusing on freedom of movement this year, refs have also been tasked with keeping an eye on on-ball defenders initiating contact in the post. That’s a no-no, too.
To help the Sixers become more familiar with interpreting the NBA’s officiating tweaks, Brown recently invited retired referee Joey Crawford, a Havertown native, to speak to the team in Camden.
There is a flip side to the changing freedom of movement dynamic, however.
As the saying goes, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, while policing freedom of movement might make life a little more delicate on the defensive end, it’s also opening up opportunities on the offensive side of the floor.
“Offensively, I can post up a lot more, without getting wrapped up or pushed out of the way,” said Simmons. “Defensively, I keep my hands out, and use my body a lot more.”
Adaptations that all come hand in hand with the start of a season.