Ah yes, the ol’ elbow-to-the-face rule interpretation controversy.
In the second quarter of last night’s barn burner between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors (Steph Curry!), Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Draymond Green was draped all over Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson whilst the two engaged in battle 30 feet away from the hoop. As Anderson attempted to pivot, contact appeared to be made, Green hit the deck and an offensive foul on Anderson delivered possession to Golden State.
Was it the right call? You be the judge:
The Reddit crowd had a field day with Green’s reaction, though the circulating gif conveniently cut in after the supposed contact already took place:
Upon further review (and from a different angle), there does appear to be contact. Granted, it’s fleeting contact (with Anderson’s left elbow), but as many may be able to attest, even a glancing elbow to the face can be enough to leave its mark.
Perhaps the more important question may be: does Anderson have a right to pivot within his own personal space? In that regard, rule interpretations can get a little dicey.
Typically, an offensive player is assured the freedom to move within a sensible area (though what’s considered sensible can also be open to interpretation), but they must do so in a natural manner. In Anderson’s case, if the official’s decided Anderson’s pivot and elbow swing were separate motions, even if contact was minimal or non-existent, a violation on Anderson could be considered the correct call.
Upon a quick search, there’s a handful of rules that may hold true here:
1. A player shall not be allowed excessive and/or vigorous swinging of the elbows in a swinging motion (no contact) when a defensive player is nearby and the offensive player has the ball. (Source: Section XI)
2. When a player attempts to execute a legitimate offensive or defensive move and an extended elbow makes more than marginal contact with a legally established opponent, a personal foul will be assessed. (Source: Elbow Fouls – E.)
3. When a player attempts a move where there is not ample room but despite the obvious risk continues, and makes significant but not excessive contact with an extended elbow, a Flagrant Foul 1 will be assessed. This is also the case if the elbow is swung, apart from a basketball move, and makes significant but not excessive contact. (Source: Elbow Fouls – E.)
Whether one considers Green’s reaction over the top of not, at least he’s no Chris Bosh:
If you guys happen to stumble upon specific explanations regarding one’s freedom to pivot in a given space, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments. High school, college, or professional, I’m interested in reading the official explanation and interpretation of these sort of plays.