It's time for a new NBA season, with the 2021-22 campaign tipping off with a pair of games on Tuesday. And it should be an exciting night of action to begin the new year.
First, the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks will open the season by hosting the Brooklyn Nets, another team that is expected to be among the top title contenders in 2021-22. Then, the Los Angeles Lakers will host the Golden State Warriors in a matchup stacked with stars.
For the most part, the NBA hasn't changed much since the 2020-21 season ended in July. However, there have been some adjustments, including to several rules, which is typically the case after most offseasons.
The most notable rule change that the Association has instituted for 2021-22 relates to how fouls are called. And it may be more difficult for players to drive into the paint and draw a foul, as officials will be calling things a bit differently.
The NBA recently announced there's going to be "an interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls." So referees likely won't be blowing the whistle as much as they had been before.
Monty McCutchen, the NBA vice president of referee development and training, discussed this change during an appearance on The Crossover NBA Show with Chris Mannix and Howard Beck earlier this month, explaining what the league is intending to do with this decision (h/t Jordan Greer of Sporting News):
"If you're placed at a disadvantage through good play, then therefore a foul should be called, offensively or defensively. We're not trying to take away every pump fake. We are trying to take away a pump fake that then leads to an abnormal launch angle that the defender never would've hit the offensive player had this offensive player not taken this abnormal launch angle.
"We want to balance out the ability of a defensive player to compete with passion with an offensive player who can compete with passion, and when we find that balance, good competition is the result."
So far, the change has seemed to gain a positive reaction from around the NBA, including from Warriors point guard Stephen Curry.
"You're sitting in a boardroom looking at film all summer, it's hard to know how it'll translate on the court," Curry said, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. "But definitely the purity of the game, the goal is to put the ball in the basket and not be out there just living and dying by trying to get to the free-throw line any way you can. I love the effort."
Another slight change to NBA games will be noticeable in the final two minutes of contests. Before, reviews for out-of-bounds calls at that point were initiated by officials, but it will now be up to the coaches to challenge them, just as they have been doing during earlier parts of games.
The league has decided to keep its play-in tournament, which will feature four teams from each conference battling it out for the final four playoff berths. This format was introduced in the 2020-21 season. The Nos. 7 and 8 spots play to determine who gets the No. 7 seed, then the loser takes on the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup with the No. 8 seed on the line.
On Monday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also announced 96 percent of players have now gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. However, those who haven't will face stricter protocols. Meanwhile, vaccinated players will have less restrictions than they did earlier in the pandemic.