The new foul rules implemented over the offseason have made life much more enjoyable for the casual NBA fan. Gone are the days of offensive players leaping into defenders and getting bailed out with foul calls. The NBA is a much cleaner product now than it was in the last few years, but some players have understandably not been happy with the change.
Damian Lillard has become the latest superstar to speak out against the new rules, but he might want to worry less about the calls he’s no longer getting and more about the plethora of bricks he’s been throwing up this season.
Damian Lillard has struggled to adjust to the NBA’s new foul rules
When the new guidelines for referees were announced this offseason, we figured the usual suspects would be the ones most affected by the change. James Harden, Trae Young, and Stephen Curry (among others) have made a living off creating their own contact and getting foul calls despite defenders being in perfect guarding position. All three are shooting fewer free throws than in years past, but no player has seen a more drastic dip than Lillard has.
Last year, Lillard attempted 7.2 free throws per game. That number has plummeted to 3.2 in 2021. Lillard’s free throw rate so far this season sits at .181, which is by far the lowest of his career. His previous low was .249 in his rookie year.
Lillard isn’t just struggling to get to the line, though. He’s also been abymal shooting the ball through 11 games. The six-time All-Star is shooting just 36.5% from the field and 25.5% from three, which are both career-lows. He’s played three games in which he shots 0-for-6, 0-for-8, and 0-for-9 from beyond the arc. That’s unprecedented for the sharpshooter we’ve grown accustomed to watching.
Lillard hurls a direct shot at the new rules
Lillard just can’t seem to find his stroke early in the season, and he’s starting to lose his patience. After the Portland Trail Blazers’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday in which Lillard attempted just one free throw, he criticized the NBA for how games are being called.
I feel like the way the game is being officiated is unacceptable.
I don’t want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations, the s*** that’s getting missed, I mean, come on. I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn’t affect me because I don’t do the trick the referees, I don’t do the trick plays, and it’s just unacceptable. Then the explanations and the remarks in return when you tell them is just like… I don’t even have nothin’ else to say about it.Damian Lillard
Point taken, Dame.
Time to look in the mirror
It’s not a coincidence that the players complaining about the new foul rules (Lillard, Harden, Young) are the ones who benefited the most from the old rules. The game is still being called consistently around the league, so it’s up to these guys to adjust to the new norm as other players already have.
The new rules aren’t shooting worse than 37% from the field. They don’t rank 148th in the NBA in 3-point percentage behind names such as Russell Westbrook, Al Horford, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That’s all Lillard.
It’s time for these players to look in the mirror and see what the problem really is.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.
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