I don’t even have to give a full explanation of that title, since you all know what I’m referring to. But…just in case you missed it, here is the video:
Ok, so Tony was waving his towel — as we all know he loves to do — and the warm-up shirt that was inside said towel came flying out onto the court. Referee Marc Davis then assessed him a technical foul and also counted the three-point attempt by Derek Fisher, even though Fisher missed the shot.
First, the technical foul. That was the appropriate call, no question about it. A player or coach throwing anything onto the floor is rightly deemed a technical foul, so I cannot imagine anyone having an issue with that.
However, it was counting the three-point attempt that seemed curious to myself, as well as several others. I never did hear an explanation by the broadcasters (granted, they did not really question it either for whatever reason), so I did some digging through the rulebook to see what I could come up with.
The best I can come up with is that Marc Davis called the t-shirt toss “interference”, which is the only justification for counting the basket. Here is that rule:
RULE NO. 11—BASKET INTERFERENCE—GOALTENDING
Section I—A Player Shall Not:
a. Touch the ball or the basket ring when the ball is using the basket ring as its lower base or hang on the rim while the ball is passing through.
EXCEPTION: If a player near his own basket has his hand legally in contact with the ball, it is not a violation if his contact with the ball continues after the ball enters the cylinder, or if, in such action, he touches the basket.
b. Touch any ball from within the playing area when it is above the basket ring and within the imaginary cylinder.
c. During a field goal attempt, touch a ball, which has a chance to score, after it has touched any part of the backboard above ring level, whether the ball is considered on its upward or downward flight.
d. During a field goal attempt, touch a ball, which has a chance to score, after it has touched the backboard below the ring level and while the ball is on its upward flight.
e. Trap the ball against the face of the backboard after it has been released. (To be a trapped ball, three elements must exist simultaneously. The hand, the ball and the backboard must all occur at the same time. A batted ball against the backboard is not a trapped ball.)
f. Touch any ball from within the playing area that is on its downward flight with an opportunity to score. This is considered to be a “field goal attempt” or trying for a goal.
g. Touch the ball at any time with a hand which is through the basket ring.
h. Vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through.
i. Touch the rim, net or ball while the ball is in the net, preventing it from clearing the basket.
PENALTY: If the violation is at the opponent’s basket, the offended team is awarded two points, if the attempt is from the two point zone and three points if it is from the three point zone. The crediting of the score and subsequent procedure is the same as if the awarded score has resulted from the ball having gone through the basket, except that the
official shall hand the ball to a player of the team entitled to the throw-in. If the violation is at a team’s own basket, no points can be scored and the ball is awarded to the offended team at the free throw line extended on either sideline. If there is a violation by both teams, no points can be scored, play shall be resumed by a jump ball between any two opponents in the game at the center circle.
Now, since the t-shirt did not come into contact with the ball (or even the player), making a call of interference seems like an incredibly generous interpretation of the this rule. I emailed Donnie Vaden, the NBA’s VP of Referee Operations and Director of Officials, about this, but since it states he will not answer questions about specific calls/games, I’m not holding my breath waiting on an answer.
In my opinion, the correct call would have been to award the Thunder with a technical free throw and possession of the ball since the shot was interrupted by the distraction of the foreign object being introduced to the playing floor.
Why is this important? After all, the Grizzlies won the game despite the outcome of this call, so it is largely inconsequential, right? Yes and no. A bad call/ruling is still bad, no matter whether or not it affects the outcome of the game. A bad call in the 1st quarter has just as much impact as a bad call in the last two minutes of a tight game, whether we want to believe that or not. We should always strive to make sure that the officials are making the correct calls throughout the game and the season.
As for Tony Allen — keep waving that towel! Believe Memphis.