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The "Charge-Block" Call

The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Denver Nuggets Sunday night, 110 – 97 at home in the AT&T Center, pushing their league best record to a 35-6. The late weekend night saw a physical game highlighted by an assortment of big Spurs moments, including a 37-point quarter, a vicious Ginobili block on Carmelo Anthony, Parker abusing the Nuggets defense, and a Splitter dunk that ended with a scary landing on his wrist and "butt bone." Somewhat lost in all the excitement of the Spurs’ sixth straight win was an officiating quagmire that stopped the action and baffled every person with eyes on the game - a moment that gathered people in a unified thought:

"Wait. What?"

Just over two minutes into the second quarter, a driving Al Harrington caught a pass from J.R. Smith and was met almost immediately by a Manu Ginobili charge attempt at the bottom of the free throw line circle. Official Mike Callahan, who was standing on the baseline, called a defensive foul while head official Eric Dalen shot his arm in the opposite direction indicating a charge.

The officials met to discuss the conflicting calls and a few moments later called fouls on both Harrington and Ginobili. A jump ball at center court was then organized but not executed before both Coach Karl and Coach Popovich made their way to the scorer’s table, demanding an explanation.

When asked about the call after the game, Coach Popovich was still somewhat puzzled by what happened. "I can’t remember if I have ever seen it before, I really haven’t. I haven’t seen it, I don’t think," Popovich said. "It may have been the correct call. I didn’t see the exact play when it happened but I can’t remember a charge and a block called at the same time."

It’s alright Pop, even the folks in charge of the official play-by-play report had no idea what happened.



Note: The real entry in the game log can be found here.

What do you think? Was the double-foul and jump ball the proper decision or should a more decisive foul have been agreed upon?

Believe it or not, as wacky as everything played out, the officials made the appropriate call in an unclear situation. In assigning fouls to both players and calling a jump ball, the officials were following the NBA rulebook. Let’s take a little look.

NBA Rules - Section III - Elastic Powers

The officials shall have the power to make decisions on any point not specifically covered in the rules. The Basketball Operations Department will be advised of all such decisions at the earliest possible moment.

Simple enough. It isn't impossible to cover every little situation and set specifics for actions that will be viewed with human eyes. Errors and conflicts are only natural. The NBA rulebook has a little wiggle room to allow officials to make calls based on their best interpretation on what occurs. The question was never about Ginobili’s position in relation to charge circle but rather about the movement/placement of his feet - an unreviewable issue.

NBA Rules - Section IV - Different Decisions by Officials

a.) The crew chief shall have the authority to set aside or question decisions regarding a rule interpretation made by either of the other officials.

b.) It is the primary duty of the trail official to determine whether a field goal attempt shall count, if successful. If he does not know, he will ask the other officials for assistance. If none of the officials know, the official timer shall be asked. His decision will be final. EXCEPTION: Period Ending Score or No-Score in Official's Manual.

c.) If the officials give conflicting signals as to who caused the ball to go out-of-bounds, a jump ball shall be called between the two players involved. However, if an official offers assistance, the calling official may change the call.

d.) In the event that a violation and foul occur at the same time, the foul will take precedence.

e.) Double Foul (See Rule 12-B-Section VI-f).

Here we can see a rule structure that allows for the officials to convene and make the appropriate call in several different areas of the game. The rules also showcase several examples of officiating hierarchy but not to a point where room for deliberation is suppressed. Let’s take a look at the referenced Double Foul section.

NBA Rules - Section VI - Double Fouls

a. No free throw attempts will be awarded on double fouls, whether they are personal or technical.

b. Double personal fouls shall add to a player's total, but not to the team total.

c. If a double foul occurs, the team in possession of the ball at the time of the call shall retain possession. Play is resumed on the sideline, nearest the point where play was interrupted but no nearer to the baseline than the free throw line extend-ed. The 24-second clock is reset to 24 seconds if the ball is to be inbounded in the team's backcourt or stay the same or reset to 14, whichever is greater, if the ball is to be inbounded in the frontcourt.

d. If a double foul occurs with neither team in possession, or when the ball is in the air on an unsuccessful field goal or free throw attempt, play will be resumed with a jump ball at the center circle between any two opponents in the game at that time. If injury, ejection or disqualification makes it necessary for any player to be replaced, no substitute may participate in the jump ball. The jumper shall be selected from one of the remaining players in the game.

e. If a double foul occurs on a successful field goal or free throw attempt, the team that has been scored upon will inbound the ball at the baseline as after any other score.

f. If a double foul occurs as a result of a difference in opinion by the officials, no points can be scored and play shall resume with a jump ball at the center circle between any two opponents in the game at that time. No substitute may participate in the jump ball.

In Sunday night’s situation, two officials called unique fouls and were unable to establish a case for their respective decisions in an official’s meeting. Since video evidence was not applicable because both calls were not decided based on Ginobili’s position, the only other option was to fall back on the sub-sections e and f of the Double Fouls section.

If a double foul occurs... when the ball is in the air on an unsuccessful field goal..., play will be resumed with a jump ball at the center circle between any two opponents in the game at that time.

If a double foul occurs as a result of a difference in opinion by the officials, no points can be scored and play shall resume with a jump ball at the center circle between any two opponents in the game at that time.

This was the best possible option to come out of Sunday night's situation. Both teams were denied the positive and spared the negative from both of the conflicting calls.

Even though the jump ball denied San Antonio in receiving the ball off a Denver turnover, this was certainly a more attractive option than Al Harrington shooting free throws. The Nuggets may have a sliver of room to complain since the double-foul call denied them an opportunity at two free points . I say a "sliver" because Denver won the tip and scored the next three points before conceding a crushing 37-13 Spurs run to finish the half. So what did it matter if the Nuggets were going to roll over and play dead anyways?

Odds and Ends

  • The Spurs earned their sixth straight win against Denver.
  • San Antonio also earned their fifteenth consecutive home win.
  • In the second quarter, the Spurs hit fourteen consecutive shots plus all four free throw attempts in a span of roughly eight minutes.
  • Tim Duncan finished one point short of earning his 698 career double-double: 9 points on 3-7 shooting with 16 rebounds.
  • Parker's 30 points are his second highest total this season. Parker scored 37 against the Grizzlies on 12/18/10.
  • After giving up 128 points against the Knicks 105 Boston, the Spurs have allowed only 90.7 PPG over their last six games.
  • (From 48 Minutes of Hell) "The Spurs have rattled off 6 consecutive wins since the back-to-back debacle that was NY/Boston. In those wins the Spurs have held their opponents to 40.1% from the floor. San Antonio’s current defensive rating is 100.3, good for 6th in the league."
  • After being signed to a 10-day contract, Larry Owens saw his first official NBA minutes with 2:09 remaining in the game. Owens finished with one rebound and one assist.