How to get pump-fake calls right
Steve Kerr was about to make a valid criticism of current NBA officiating during Wednesday’s game when he got sidetracked. Raja Bell had just pump-faked, getting Jerry Stackhouse to jump to the right of Bell in an attempt to block or bother the shot while avoiding contact with the shooter. Bell, seeing that Stackhouse was about to fly past him, leaned a couple feet to his right to create a collision, then heaved up a prayer. The whistle blew. Foul on Stackhouse.
I believe Kerr was going to say something like “This is absurd.” If he was, he’s right. Since when did it become a foul for a defender to leave his feet? That’s how you make plays! Today’s refs don’t exercise near enough judgment. On these pump-fake situations, the rule should protect active defenders who aren’t invading the shooter’s space, which should consist of the shooter’s starting place and perhaps the area one-to-three feet DIRECTLY in front of him, depending on the situation.
Guys shooting treys are generally going to jump toward the basket, coming down 2 or 3 feet closer to the hoop from where they rose up. If you’re 14 feet from the hoop and you get the defender off his feet, you should be entitled to your takeoff place and maybe a foot directly in front of you. But if you lean left or right or take an unnaturally long step toward the hoop to cause contact that otherwise wouldn’t occur, that should never be a defensive foul.
We need to return to thinking of the pump-fake as a tool to turn a contested shot into an uncontested one: you get the guy off his feet, pause, then rise up for your shot while he’s descending. It’s only a foul if the defender jumps into space that a reasonable person would consider to be the natural jumping area for that particular shot. We need to get away from the mindset that you’re entitled to two shots merely for getting the guy off his feet, irrespective of the space the defender is jumping into.