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NBA owners approve tougher penalty — free throw plus the ball — for “take” fouls

2021 Las Vegas Summer League - Portland Tralblazers v Phoenix Suns

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It was a growing strategy in the NBA because it was the smart play most of the time — rather than let the other team get out on a fast break where they are more likely to score, a player would use a “take” foul and just grab a guy in the backcourt to stop the play and the break. The disadvantaged team just took the ball out of bounds, but they lost a good scoring opportunity as the defense got set.

That same foul next season will cost the offending team a free throw, plus the fouled team keeps the ball.

That was one of two major moves by the NBA Board of Governors — the owners — when they met Tuesday. The other was to remove the experimental tag from the play-in tournament — the games between the 7-10 seeds to see who gets the final two playoff seeds is now a permanent part of the NBA.

Both of these moves were expected.

This “take” foul rule was used in the G-League this season and in Summer League and worked well. Now, when a player does not make a play to steal the ball but fouls an opposing player in the backcourt to stop a transition opportunity, the disadvantaged team gets a free throw (that can be taken by any of their five players on the court) and the ball out of bounds.

Smart players trying to stop a fast break can still prevent a break by “making a play on the ball” as if they were going for a steal, but that will be harder to make look convincing.

As for the play-in tournament, that was never going away after its success in its first two years.

The league sees it as a success on two fronts. First, most obviously, the television ratings for the win-or-go-home games have been good — fans like the drama. Second, it has focused some end-of-season conversations away from tanking and on who might make the play-in game.

The success of the play-in games has given NBA Commissioner Adam Silver leverage to push for the mid-season Cup-style tournament he wants. The owners discussed that idea again today — including payouts to the winners to motivate the players — and, while the owners did not approve it yet, it feels like in the next few years it’s going to happen. How fans will react to it is another question.