There are a lot of reasons why James Harden has become such a polarizing figure over the years. One of the central gripes about him has to do with the clever and innovative techniques he’s developed for initiating contact with his defenders and goading them into fouls.
Harden certainly isn’t the only player in the NBA who has worked that into his repertoire, and now a whole new generation of players have taken that cue and run with it. Hawks guard Trae Young has been a big proponent, developing his own signature technique to draw shooting fouls on opponents who get caught trailing him around screens or reaching in as he works through the paint and is quick to flip up floaters to draw contact.
During the Hawks game against the Nets last month, he caught the attention of head coach Steve Nash — one of the craftiest point guards in history — who could be seen pleading his case to the officials and saying “That’s not basketball.” All Young could do was smile.
“That’s not basketball” – Steve Nash
Trae Young was drawing cheap fouls and Steve Nash was tired of seeing it, not being able to do anything about it. Coach Nash had to have a word with this ref. Talk heavy coach. #WeGoHard – @Keith_McPherson pic.twitter.com/tMEbkSD6Ga
— Talkin’ Nets (@TalkinNets) December 31, 2020
Now, Young has offered a more in-depth response to Nash’s comments, saying that he grew up idolizing the two-time MVP and that Nash was guilty of similar tactics during his playing days. Via Chris Kirschner of The Athletic:
“I saw that it blew up and everyone was talking about it,” Young said of Nash’s comments. “I bet if I was playing for Steve, he’d be happy. It’s something in the midst of competition that he was wanting to win, and I was wanting to win, and I’m gonna do whatever it takes. I think him wanting to get in the refs’ ears a little bit was just trying to help him. I learned a lot about drawing fouls from him. If he says it’s not basketball, he must’ve been saying it about himself because he’s done it a couple of times throughout his career and was so successful.”
Still, Young’s strategy has curried attention, and it appears the league will reportedly look into instituting a rule to curtail the practice. Young is one of the NBA’s best at getting to the line at 9.7 free throw attempts per game, although he’s struggled with his shot so far this season, and the Hawks have won just three out of their last seven games.
The NBA has tried to alter rules like this in the past, promising to crack down on shooters who throw themselves into defenders to attempt to draw fouls, but it’s a rule whose application has been spotty, to say the least. As such, it remains to be seen whether they can effectively adjudicate efforts in foul drawing, particularly given they so often do get actual contact and are fouled.