At the end of last night’s game, a weird thing happened. With time running out, Rick Carlisle came up, patting Kevin Durant on the back to say good game and for some reason, Durant handed the ball the Carlisle.
(I love Carlisle’s face after he flips the ball back. He’s like, “I dunno he just handed it to me.”)
After a moment of everyone being extremely confused, referee Steve Javie called it a turnover on Durant and gave the ball to Dallas. A lot of people thought this should’ve been a technical foul on Carlisle. And technically it should’ve been before KD even handed him the ball.
The rules state pretty clearly that a player and a coach can’t make contact while the player is on the floor with the ball in play. For example, Scott Skiles was hit with a T against the Heat for bumping Carlos Arroyo inadvertently and Jason Kidd has his famous “run into Mike Woodson” play against the Hawks a couple years ago.
Also, the rules state coaches are to be assessed a technical foul when they step on the court without permission from an official. Watching the video, I think it’s pretty clear Carlisle is on the court. And I don’t think he had permission.
But as we all know, coaches walk onto the floor all the time. It’s not something strictly enforced. And in the case of Durant and Carlisle, obviously it’s the end of the game and there’s no reason to call anything. But they had to call something. They couldn’t just stand there and let Carlisle hold the ball for seven seconds.
I asked NBA Communications VP Tim Frank about it and he said the officials got the call correct. He said that because Carlisle was out of bounds, Durant handing him the ball was no different than just setting it on the scorer’s table. Makes sense.
But the issue really is that Carlisle was on the court, if just barely. He kind of surprised Durant by coming up behind him. And it’s not like Durant forced the ball into Carlisle’s hands or anything. Carlisle actually grabbed it from him.
Does this matter? Not at all. The only thing it affected was OKC’s defensive stats (which could use some help), Durant’s turnovers per game and gamblers that bet the under (the line was at 192.5 and after DeShawn Stevenson’s 3, the final was at 194.)
Durant tweeted that it was just a joke. He’s right, absolutely not a big deal in any way, but still, an interesting look at NBA rules. And as Zach Lowe of SI pointed out, another instance that coaches need to back off from the court.