Thought about this great post, from January, while watching West Virginia play tonight. There’s a lot of truth in what was written. No, you can’t ban the press. But it does make the sport chaotic and nearly unwatchable at times (admittedly it makes it hugely compelling at other times).
The problem, as the post explains, is that refs don’t call fouls on the pressing team that would be obvious calls in half-court play…
For example, if, in a half-court set, you run full speed into an offensive player, knock him into the bench and steal the ball, that’s a foul. But if you picked them up full-court, for some reason they just let that go. A full-court press team will also generally be allowed to climb all the way up the back of a rebounder and get an offensive rebound while elbowing the defender in the head. If you’re a guard on a pressing team, there is rarely a consequence for raking your hands across a ball-handler’s arms or shouldering him off his pivot foot.
If games involving pressing teams were officiated the way the rest of the games are, the whole pressing team would foul out, and the other guys would shoot 100 free throws. Instead, the press would be a situational tactic, deployed a few possessions at a time by teams needing to change the pace of a game or make a comeback. It would be more like a two-minute drill in football, or a baseball team using a starter as a relief pitcher. It would be a like a defendant pleading insanity. The last resort of the desperate.
He’s spot-on. And interestingly this is the way the press is primarily used in the NBA, either because the refs call it different or (more likely) the offenses are too good for it to be adequately effective. But as it is, the game is nearly unwatchable. Which is a shame.
(Note: I employ a full court man-to-man press sometimes for the entire game with the 5th grade team I coach, so I guess I am part of the problem. My reasoning is simple: It works. Add in the fact I had 12 girls last year and so didn’t have to worry about fouls or fatigue, and it REALLY works. Which is all fine and good, but to be honest it was miserable to watch at times. Sitting on my couch as a consumer watching WVa tonight that bothers me a lot more than it does when sitting on the bench. So as I said, count me as part of the problem.)