At the recent ULEB Summer League in Jesolo, Italy, the Referees Department met with coaches from the Euroleague and ULEB Cup clubs. A total of 28 clubs were represented during the two day meeting, the first day consisting of open discussion and video situations and the second day a practical session on the playing court discussing play situations.
The meeting opened with a single question, “What kind of game do you want in the ULEB competitions?” The floor was opened to those coaches present and an in depth discussion took place centered around the type of game that was seen in the Final game in Athens. The overwhelming consensus of the coaches was that the referees must eliminate the illegal contacts that prevent an open and skilful performance by top quality players.
The number of fouls called was not an issue for the coaches as ultimately, as the season progressed, teams would adjust to the criteria of the referees, which of course is agreed by the coaches themselves, with the Referees Department. The referees will be instructed to call strictly and consistently, any illegal contacts at the beginning of the game, thereby allowing the coaches and players to adjust to the agreed criteria.
A lengthy discussion took place on POST PLAY, focusing on the illegal use of the hands, forearms and legs. Using many video examples, aspects of holding, grabbing and pushing by both defensive and offensive players were debated. It is not just the obvious illegal contacts that must be penalised but also the small yet effective ones also.
The discussion then shifted to the use of PICK and ROLL plays by the offensive team. It was acknowledged that many BACK SCREENS are set illegally, because they are out of the vision of the opponent, immediately followed by the screening player switching his position to a SIDE SCREEN in the vision of the opponent when the player moves to follow his man. There will be contact in these situations but not necessarily illegal contact by the defensive player trying to get around the screen. Referees must use their knowledge and understanding of the game to make the correct interpretation in such situations. Illegal SWIM STROKES or HOOKING will be penalised.
When FACING opponents, players may not use a hand or forearm to play defense, denying the first quick step by offensive players nor may the dribbler use his forearm to push off his defender. These small contacts give a clear advantage to the player using them and must be stopped as early a possible in the game. By insisting on correct behavior by all players the quality of the game will improve as well as the spectacle for the fans.
The coaches were unanimous in their condemnation of FAKING and FLOPPING by players during the game. Many players are falling down in a theatrical manner after little or no contact with opponents in an attempt to mislead the referees in to calling fouls. It is not exclusive to defensive players but also applies to offensive players either when dribbling or cutting. We see head and body fakes when there is minimal contact. It was agreed that when a referee feels that a player is flopping or faking, ONE WARNING should be given to that player and his coach be informed that it is a WARNING for the team, as the next flop or fake will be penalised with a TECHNICAL FOUL. This will also be an official FIBA interpretation from September 2007. Everyone present agreed that this interpretation is essential for the integrity and image of the game.
The most intense discussion surrounded the proposed new interpretation from FIBA for September 2007 concerning the interpretation of UNSPORTSMANLIKE fouls during the last minutes of a close game. When the ball is out of bounds for a throw in, either in the hands of a referee or a player to make the throw in and a foul is called against the defensive team during this dead ball period, it must be interpreted as an unsportsmanlike foul. Questions were raised about differentiating between what is a deliberate attempt to foul a player who is a poor free throw shooter and contact which occurs when a defensive player tries to deny the inbounds pass. The best referees are smart enough to understand the difference in the actions of defensive players and will react accordingly in such situations.
A further development which arose from the discussion on UNSPORTSMANLIKE fouls was the case of a player who sets an illegal screen which causes excessive contact on a moving opponent. Viewing specific video examples it was agreed that in such cases the calling of a more severe penalty was justified.
The closing comments echoed by all present were that the necessary steps must be taken by coaches, players and referees to eliminate behaviour and practice that is detrimental to the image of our competitions and everyone must cooperate closely to ensure that we produce the kind of game that we all want to see.