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There were two plays early on in the Sixers’ loss to the Brooklyn Nets that stood out. Two plays that last season would’ve assuredly been called defensive fouls and led to James Harden free throws, but went without a whistle.
Welcome to the NBA in 2021-22.
This offseason, the league placed an emphasis on players using unnatural actions to draw fouls on defenders. So far, fans are enjoying the product it’s produced.
As we saw in last season’s playoffs, Trae Young benefited often from this type of tactic. There were a few examples of Matisse Thybulle playing excellent defense with his hands straight up, only to be whistled for a foul because Young leaned back into the defensive standout.
It’s hard to know if the “changes” are affecting Joel Embiid so far. Embiid led the league in attempting 10.7 free throws a game last season. He’s at 7.3, still a very healthy number, but he hasn’t been as aggressive scoring this season — whether that’s to play make more in the absence of Ben Simmons or due to the right knee soreness he’s dealt with, remains to be seen.
And speaking of Harden, he’s getting very little sympathy for a perceived lack of favorable calls.
There’s been a lot made of Harden’s struggles so far this season. The former MVP is averaging just 16.6 points a game while shooting 35.9 percent from the field (33.3 percent from three) and attempting only three free throws per game.
It’s worth noting that Harden also spent the entirety of his offseason rehabbing a hamstring injury which lingered throughout the 2021 postseason. Is the rules emphasis hurting Harden? It’s not helping, but he’s a far too talented player to stay down for much longer.
Are you enjoying the way games have been officiated so far this season?
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