An outstanding opening weekend to the NBA playoffs was underscored by injuries to two of the league’s top players. Ja Morant and Giannis Antetokounmpo both went down Sunday, and the similarity of the plays in which they were injured has sparked league-wide conversation.
Both stars exited after falls with defenders attempting to draw charges near the rim. Morant injured his hand when attempting to brace his fall, while Antetokounmpo hurt his back when he hit the floor.
Ja Morant headed to the locker room with an apparent injury after this play. pic.twitter.com/MZOrSN9Tmz
— ESPN (@espn) April 16, 2023
Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (lower back contusion) will not return to Game 1 of Bucks-Heat, per @ShamsCharania.
Giannis sustained the injury on this collision with Kevin Love in the 1st quarter pic.twitter.com/ep8RFTvVfD
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) April 16, 2023
The pair of injuries drew widespread questions about whether the NBA’s charge rule should be changed given the advanced athleticism and verticality of today’s players. The rulebook defines a charge as a play where a defender establishes a legal guarding position outside the restricted area:
“To be considered legal and to draw an offensive foul, a secondary defensive player must establish legal position prior to the offensive player starting his upward motion, and the defender must have both feet established completely outside the Restricted Area line.”
However, the rule has led to a dangerous trend of defenders sliding into position and undercutting high-flying players on bang-bang plays around the rim. Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers was asked Monday whether the play should be banned.
“No, not at all, unless they just want a 250-250 game,” Rivers replied. “The one thing I don’t like is, originally with the charge line, if there was any contact in that circle that was a foul. Then all of the sudden they came up with this vertical, like you can jump and if you leave your feet vertically within the circle that’s no longer called anything. A lot of us coaches still argue you’re still in the charge circle. But that fell on deaf ears, so that’s allowed, and we all do it defensively. But no, there’s just no way, I mean both of those plays were I think people taking charges.”
While Rivers didn’t support banning the charge, he did say some of the plays can be categorized as dangerous and should be reviewed.
“I think the only thing there is some of the charges people take can be viewed as reckless,” the Sixers coach added. “And so they can view that. They can’t take (charges) away but they can call it what it is if it’s reckless. If it’s a reckless play it should be a flagrant. But none of those I think were reckless, it’s just Ja Morant can jump over a human being, and he tried to do it. That’s part of it.”
A plausible solution is extending the restricted area farther away from the basket to protect players when taking off around the rim. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted that he has broached the subject to the league in the past, but no changes were made.
“Move the circle further away from the basket. Taking it an extra foot away from the hoop would reduce to take charges on drives dramatically,” he said Monday. “I’ve asked. Obviously nothing has changed.”
Doc Rivers serves on the NBA’s competition committee, a 10-member panel in charge of reviewing potential rule changes. The charge rule has played a massive role in the evolution of modern defensive philosophy. Sunday’s injuries to two of the league’s marquee superstars could be enough to bring about change in that area.
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