NBA commissioner Adam Silver says play-in will become 'fixture,' league wants to eliminate take fouls

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver says play-in will become 'fixture,' league wants to eliminate take fouls
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The play-in tournament isn’t going anywhere, according to NBA commissioner Adam Silver. 

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“It is something we talked about continuing beyond this season,” Silver said at a press conference after the league’s board of governors met on Wednesday. “We’re very pleased with what we’re seeing so far.”

Silver reiterated what he said at All-Star Weekend in February: The league was initially focused on the play-in games themselves, rather than the way the tournament would improve the quality of the regular season. Before he took any questions, he noted that “only three seedings have been established” with only a few days remaining. (As explained in Brad Botkin’s daily Playoff Picture, the Phoenix Suns have clinched the No. 1 spot in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies are locked in at No. 2 and the Los Angeles Clippers are headed for the play-in as the eighth seed.) 

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“What we’re seeing is a far greater impact essentially on the last month of the season,” Silver said, “where teams are either jockeying to get into the play-in tournament itself or jockeying to get out of the play-in tournament with a locked-in sixth seed. We’re pleased with it. There may be a need to tweak it additionally. We’ll see how it goes this year, but I think it’s going to become a fixture in this league.”

Silver did not get into what the potential tweaks might be, but he did discuss another potential change: Eliminating the “take” foul, i.e. the unsightly intentional foul that stops a transition opportunity.

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In November, the league’s competition committee talked about the rise in such fouls, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Silver said it came up again this time, and that there could be a new rule in place before next season.

“There was a discussion on take fouls,” Silver says. “Byron Spruell is here, president of basketball operations. That is something, as you know, we’re very focused on and considering making a change for next season. We still have some work to do with our competition committee. We’ll be meeting with the board again in July, which would be a possible time to change that rule.”

There has been “a pretty dramatic increase in take fouls,” Silver said, and “we don’t think it’s a great part of our game. International basketball has another way of getting at it, but that is something that potentially we’d like to tweak.”

FIBA punishes “unsportsmanlike” fouls by awarding two free throws and the ball, just like a flagrant foul in the NBA. Their rulebook states that any contact where the player is “not legitimately attempting to directly play the ball within the spirit and intent of the rules” constitutes an unsportsmanlike foul. This specifically includes “unnecessary contact caused by the defensive player in order to stop the progress of the offensive team in transition. This applies until the offensive player begins his act of shooting.”

Silver does not, however, need to follow FIBA’s lead. Since the 2018-19 season, the G League has had a rule against the “transition take foul,” which “occurs when a defender commits a take foul (a foul in which the defender does not make a play on the ball) against an offensive player who has the ball or has just released a pass; a foul is committed during a transition scoring opportunity; and a foul does not meet the criteria for a clear path foul.” The fouled team can choose any player to take one free throw, and it retains possession of the ball. 

The coach’s challenge could also be tweaked, according to Silver, but he did not indicate that this is imminent. 

“I know around the league there are some teams who feel that, if you have a successful coach’s challenge you should be able to get another one,” Silver said. “We’re always trying to balance that against the issues of the stoppage in play and taking away what makes this game so great — that is, the flow.

“So that is something I’m sure that we will look at again this summer. I don’t necessarily anticipate a change there, but we’ll look at the end of the season and see what the data’s telling us.”

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