We all have at one time or another been frustrated by a player committing a silly foul at the end of the game and finding himself on the bench fouled out. When I was a kid, it was Shawn Kemp fouling out of a game many times for the Sonics that was frustrating to watch. I wanted to see him in the final minutes posting up for a chance to throw down a nasty dunk to close the game.
Instead, I would have to settle for a Detlef Schrempf jumper for my finish. Don't get me wrong, I liked watching Detlef's game, but Kemp was just electric in the finish. It just reminded me that I wanted to see my favorite players play out the full 48 minutes of basketball every night of every game.
That is where the argument for fouling out of games begins: Should the NBA eliminate players from fouling out of games?
There are two parts to this question that I feel come to the front of interest. The first part is the focus on the players and putting more value into them by not allowing them to foul out. The second part of focus would be on the value of coaches. Simplifying this question down to whether the coaches or players are more valuable in this given situation.
I'll start with the focus on why we should not have players foul out. I start with a focus on the NFL. If a player in the NFL, say Charles Woodson, was to commit six personal fouls, he wouldn't be thrown out of the game. His six fouls would help the other team, but he would still be allowed to stay in the game. That's assuming that you'd still want a player in who has caused six personal fouls.
Woodson would still have a chance to win the game if it came down to a last second play with a pick or a tipped pass. His value in the end is on the plays he makes to the very end, instead of the plays he does not because he'd be on the bench from fouling out. This also allows the players to play at an all out effort without worry that he will not be able to continue with full effort unlike Randy Moss.
Now getting back to basketball, when a fan comes out to a game and puts down a hefty amount of money to go to a game today, they want to see their favorite player in a meaningful situation. Whether you like Kobe Bryant or not, you want to see him on the floor with the game on the line. Half of the people want to see Kobe give them exhilaration from a winning basket, while the others want to see him horribly fail and get jubilation from his failure.
Either way, the fans to want to feel like they got their money's worth just like if they go to a movie or buying a car. It is rare when Bryant fouls out or when other big names such as Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant or LeBron James foul out. So to an extent with stars, the argument for keeping players in regardless of fouls would go on deaf ears. The stars don't foul out, so people won't care. That is except with the case of Dwight Howard.
Howard, the big man for Orlando, has had a high propensity for fouling out of games, making him a natural choice of focus for today's player in this situation. In the Playoffs the last two years, Howard has been foul prone whether facing the Cavaliers two years ago or the Bobcats and Celtics last year. This has led to Howard not being on the court when it mattered most for the Magic.
If players like Howard had the opportunity to keep playing regardless of fouls, we wouldn't have to watch a game in frustration or complaint that the referees were picking on a certain player with excessive fouls. Three early fouls wouldn't deter him from playing out the game in the most important part of the season.
Then there is the opposite side of the game supporting the coaches. The feature which focuses on keeping the traditional setting of six fouls and you're out. That would be the coaching aspect in terms of how to run your team based on foul situations among the other components that Head and Assistant coaches take on.
Usually if a player gets two quick fouls in the first quarter of a game, or three in the first two quarters, they are going to be sitting on the bench. If we were to take the six fouls situation away, we would then take away the intellect needed by the coaching staff to know whether or not you should keep the player in foul trouble in the game.
Is he a veteran, savvy player who can play with two fouls and still be competitive without picking up another? Or is he a young, brash player who still needs to mature and can't handle staying in there without a good chance of picking up more fouls? This is a situation for example that would not be put into play if we were to eliminate fouling out. Thus, eliminating another part of what makes the coach valuable.
When Shaq was at his height, he was valuable because he not only was dominant in his play, but in his ability to get other players into foul trouble. This would force the other team to have to put in a group of players that weren't as strong as the starting core, especially in the front court thanks to Shaq. O'Neal himself would find himself in foul trouble and fouled out many times as well.
If fouls did not foul players out, this could lead to constant back and forth fouling between other teams and their big men, especially if one team had a bad free throw shooting big man. One could say this was simply good tactics by putting a Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan or Shaquille O'Neal on the line, but it would more resemble the lengthening of games by continuous fouling.
The NBA does not need to take that step from Major League Baseball. The end of games today last long enough as it is in the NBA and this would just take excitement from the game.
As stated, parts of coaching would become simplified if there was not the function of fouling out implemented. Some of the value of having a Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich would be watered down. Some would like this, as it would be all about the players; but would this really make the game overall better?
There are other options that could be taken outside of the two given choices of simply getting rid of fouling out or fouling out at six fouls. One option would be simply adding more personal fouls to a player before he fouls out of a game, such as giving a player eight personal fouls instead of six. If a game goes into overtime or a second overtime, a player can come back with an extra personal foul to use if they have fouled out since it is past regulation time.
The only way that I can really find that works (to a degree at least), is if we were to change the ways of working the situation out is a technical foul on top of the extra personal. If a player commits a foul while already having six personals, the other team gets an extra free throw on top of whatever occurs on the play and the other team retains possession of the ball.
For example, if Dwight Howard has six personal fouls and fouls Chauncey Billups on a three pointer, which he hits, Chauncey would then get the normal free throw for the four point play. Then, he would get his extra free throw for the technical and Denver would retain the ball. This would be the rule to the maximum; but it would give an idea of what the penalty could be for keeping your star in the game.
A potential five point play and loss of possession plus a technical which could put your player out of the game anyway. A player could at most use eight personal fouls because they would get two technicals for the seventh and eighth personal fouls. It would force some tough coaching decisions and give the game an extra element of intrigue.
That is, if they decided to go ahead and get rid of fouling out of games or adding two more fouls. In the end, I don't think changing the foul rules should occur. The NBA has settings that work overall and changing it might become too gimmicky. I agree with the choice of having a two-point conversion in the NFL because it makes reasonable sense.
The foul changes in the NBA would not be reasonable in the end. Even as much as I would have liked to see Shawn Kemp never foul out of a game, I think the foul situation works as it is.