NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety


NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.


Showdown with Bucks means it's Semi Ojeleye time for Celtics

Showdown with Bucks means it's Semi Ojeleye time for Celtics

MILWAUKEE -- Semi Ojeleye is a smart dude.

He knows that whenever the Boston Celtics play the Milwaukee Bucks, he’s going to get a decent run that night with most of his time spent defending Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But as much as he’ll be the primary point defender on Antetokounmpo, he is quick to deflect any praise defensively directed towards him, to the team.

“I don’t think it’s me. I think it’s our team,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “You could say that or everybody on our team when they guard him.”

Nice try Semi, but we ain’t buying it.


And neither are his teammates like Marcus Smart who will spend some time defending Antetokounmpo tonight as well.

“Semi man, he’s strong as a damn ox,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “You’re not moving him easily. And Giannis, he does a really good job of using his length to beat people. But Semi, with his strength and ability to stay in front of guys bigger than him, his athleticism… hopefully that can contain him and with everybody else helping around him, we’ll see.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed similar sentiments about Ojeleye.

“There’s only so many guys that have the strength to have a chance in slowing down Giannis,” Stevens said. “And that’s all you’re trying to do, make it as difficult as possible and make him earn everything. He still gets to where he wants to go, you still have to show with multiple defenders. But Semi’s body allows for minutes at that matchup.”


And while there are a number of factors that contributed to these two teams splitting the first two games they played this season, there’s no question Ojeleye’s defense on Antetokounmpo was a factor.

In Boston’s 117-113 win over the Bucks on Nov. 1, Ojeleye defended Antetokounmpo for a team-high 24 possessions, limiting him to nine points on 3-for-6 shooting. For the game, Antetokounmpo had 33 points on 13-for-22 shooting to go with 11 rebounds.

Milwaukee evened the season series up with a 120-107 win on Dec. 21.

Ojeleye defended him for just 15 possessions (the team leader defending Antetokounmpo was Jaylen Brown, who guarded him for 16 possessions) and gave up 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting by Antetokounmpo.  For the game, he finished with 30 points on 8-for-13 shooting.

“I just try to make it tough on him,” Ojeleye said. “He’s a great player. I just try to lock in and make it tough as possible. With a guy like that, try to take away dunks and layups. From there, just hope he misses.”

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Should Anthony Davis joining LeBron James' HBO show raise tampering concerns?

Should Anthony Davis joining LeBron James' HBO show raise tampering concerns?

If LeBron James selecting Anthony Davis in the 2019 NBA All-Star draft made you uncomfortable, just wait until March 1.

HBO on Thursday announced the guests for Episode 4 of "The Shop," a show in which James and co-host Maverick Carter have "unfiltered conversations" with sports and entertainment stars at a barber shop.

Guess who will be joining James on the March 1 show? Davis, of course.

Some context here: James' Lakers openly and aggressively tried to acquire Davis before the NBA trade deadline. They're expected to compete with the Boston Celtics and other suitors in trade talks for New Orleans Pelicans star this summer, and even if they whiff again, Davis reportedly prefers L.A. as a long-term destination once his contract expires after the 2019-20 season.

Oh, and James and Davis also share the same agent in Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.

None of this necessarily precludes LeBron from inviting Davis onto his TV show. The two could talk for hours about off-court issues or life as NBA superstars and not raise a 'brow.

James may have to tread carefully, however. When he said in December it would be "amazing" if Davis came to L.A., several NBA general managers reportedly complained the league was overlooking a clear tampering violation.

The NBA didn't punish James or the Lakers at the time, but what if James and Davis even casually mention AD's future plans on national TV?

Under a strict reading of the NBA's anti-tampering rules, James could cross the line with a wayward remark to Davis. Any player who "directly or indirectly entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce or persuade" another player to negotiate with his own team would be guilty of tampering, the rules state.

But if you're wondering what the precedent is for players being punished ... there is none. No individual player has been fined for tampering, as the league gives its players a wide berth to discuss potentially teaming up. After all, it's the teams that make the moves, not the players, so what's the harm in a little side chatter?

Whether the NBA changes its stance if James tampers on national TV remains to be seen. But Celtics fans may be watching that March 1 episode through their fingers.

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