Thanks to the NBA's new emphasis on "freedom of movement," some players are arguing that the game has swung too far in favor of offense. San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay told The Athletic that the uptick in foul calls is all part of the league "going soft."
“It’s tough, man. It’s a contact sport. A contact sport. I understand that you’re changing the direction of the player, but right now it’s overboard a little bit," he said. "I mean, it’s been a point of emphasis, but you’re trying to get—you can’t touch guys. Guys are about to run, and basketball is a physical game. That’s what we lift weights for, right?”
The NBA Board of Governors approved several rule changes this offseason intended to speed up the game and favor offensive production, including an emphasis on foul calls when a player impedes another player's movement. Refs are being asked to call more fouls on contact made during screens as well as and holding, grabbing, or shoving.
“The rule hasn’t changed, they are just calling it more,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times. “So it is like anything, it’s habits. A lot of big players in the league just naturally do it, whether it is a hand on a hip. We’ve taught for years that if somebody is coming off a pick, get in front of him, chest him, take him off their line. So these are all habits that are going to have to be broken and retaught again.”
Gay's not alone in being upset at the calls this new policy is generating. In a game against the Clippers early in October, Timberwolves point guard Derrick Rose was visibly frustrated by a foul that would not have been called in years past.
League referee Jason Phillips defended the new emphasis on contact, saying that crews had become "a little lax" about calling those fouls in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
“They are getting back to where if the offensive player gets to where he wants to get to, why do we allow the defender to illegally move him out of that good spot," he said. "We shouldn’t do that. If the offensive guy is good enough to obtain that spot legally, the defender has to play him straight up.”