SportsFor James Harden, without free throws there is no paradise

For James Harden, without free throws there is no paradise


Harden pushes Ish aside with his left arm during the game between Brooklyn and Charlotte.John Minchillo (AP)

James Harden, one of the best players in the NBA, has become the symbol of one of the evils of the League. La Barba, as the 32-year-old guard-guard who plays for the Brooklyn Nets is nicknamed, has been the one who has caused the most fouls in recent seasons and has gone to the free throw line the most times. Criticism of this style of play intensified. Many consider that quite a few fouls were improperly provoked. He was not the only one. Stephen Curry, Trae Young or Luka Doncic were also singled out. His offensive moves trapped the defenders. They were reproached for the fact that, attacking and with the ball in their possession, they jumped up, slapping or kicking the defender at the same time, or that they suddenly slowed down their career to cause them to run over them at the same time as they threw. Round play: two or three points and an additional free kick for a provoked foul, impossible to avoid for the man who defended them.

The league’s referee committee said enough. Last summer he fine-tuned the regulations. It basically stated that the referees had to be more vigilant and sanction what they called “unnatural” attacking movements, such as leaning on a defender, changing trajectory abruptly to provoke contact, releasing a leg in a strange position while jumping to shoot and pushing the defender away with the free arm while pulling with the other hand. A series of concepts that change the game and that, according to Euroleague sources, are already sanctioned in Europe, where the regulations of the International Federation (FIBA) are punctilious with such actions caused by attackers.

The season has only just begun in the NBA, but after Game 3 for the Nets, who lost 95-111 to Charlotte, Harden and his coach, Steve Nash, discussed the new refereeing standard. “I feel that [Harden] it has unfairly become the symbol of not pointing out these faults. Some continue to be, but they are very alert and aware. He is the symbol of these new decisions, and I understand that there is a limit, but some are still fouls, “said the coach after Harden took just one free throw against Charlotte, reducing his average to three.

“A slab on top”

The change is obvious. La Barba averaged 11.8 free throws in the 2019-2020 season, when he played for Houston. A year earlier it had averaged 11 and since 2013 it was around 10 on average. “I’m not the type of person to complain,” he says. “I ask the referee if he sees a foul, he just whistles it. Sometimes I feel that when I start a game, I have a slab over me when it comes to receiving fouls ”. Its production has suffered this season. He averages 18.3 points, six less than in the previous one, 16 less than in 2019-2020, when he was the league’s top scorer for the third time, with an average of 34.3 points.

In the league there were always players who averaged as many free throws as Harden. Legendaries top the list. Wilt Chamberlain (1960-1973) is the highest averaging 11.4, ahead of Bob Pettit (1955-1965) with 10.3; Jerry West (1961-1974), with 9.4; and Shaquille O’Neal (1993-2011), with 9.3. This is followed by the first active player, Cameroonian Joel Embiid (Sixers), with 9. Harden is the second active player on the list, ranking 12th with 8.7. Michael Jordan is 17th with 8.2; LeBron James, 20th with 7.9; Kevin Durant and Luka Doncic, 25th and 26th with 7.6; Kobe Bryant, 27th with 7.4; and Trae Young, 28th with 7.4. The case, now, is to avoid both foul play in defense and provocation in attack.

The change in the NBA

Attacking movements that are considered unnatural

1. The attacker lunges or leans on the defender at an abnormal angle in an act of shooting

2. The attacker abruptly changes trajectory (to the side or back) to contact the defender

3. The attacker kicks (up or to the sides at an abnormal angle)

Four. The attacker’s freed arm grabs the defender (usually in an improper shooting action for basketball)

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