At the end of close NBA games, teams obviously foul to stop the clock and force the opponent to shoot free throws. However, have you ever noticed a player arguing this “intentional foul” call? I have noticed this trend growing over recent years and have seen this occur as recently as last night. In Game 4 between the Rockets and Blazers, Patrick Beverley seemed to commit an intentional foul on Mo Williams with 7 seconds left in overtime, but Beverley argued the foul call with the referee and replay showed that he in fact didn’t commit a foul- Beverley was trying to trap Williams in order to force a turnover. The referee, like everyone watching on TV, just assumed Beverley was fouling based on the game situation (Rockets down 1 with 7 seconds remaining).
I believe that I’m as critical of NBA officiating as anyone but this situation is NOT the referee’s fault. Foul calls are reactionary by referees and the immediacy of these calls are especially important late in games where every second matters. Referees don’t have time to think about strategy and must anticipate fouls in certain situations. Why should referees have to wonder whether a player is REALLY fouling or simply getting close to their opponent to try and force a turnover?
Here is my solution: NBA head coaches should be given the opportunity to tell the referees their strategy for the upcoming play before the play begins. This way, the referees would know what they are looking for. If the trailing team tells the referee that they will be trapping the ball-handler along the baseline and will ONLY be fouling if that player is able to pass the ball to another player, then there would be no assumptions made by the referees and strategies could be executed more efficiently. This brief moment between head coach and the referee should occur during any late-game timeout/dead ball situation. Lets compare this to the NFL when before a play at the end of the 1st or 2nd half, the head coach tells a referee that he will either be calling a timeout IMMEDIATELY if “Scenario A” occurs or he will wait and call a timeout specifically with xx:xx remaining on the clock if “Scenario B” occurs. Overall, this idea would help referees perform better, improve late-game strategy, and reduce player/referee confrontations.