Incentives Work in the NBA Too
By David Henderson
Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg objected to how Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics regularly carries the ball and gets away with it. Check out from about 2:40 on in this video.
I hadn’t realized how extreme it was until I watched this video,
The narrator makes a mistake, though, at the end. He says (at about the 5:30 point):
Will the referees listen to Fred Hoiberg’s complaints and call a carry on one of the most exciting and dynamic players in the NBA? Could it possibly justify changing the way they’ve called the game for decades in order to enforce a rule as old as the game itself? Of course, these are problematic, and players are gaining more and more of an advantage every year that goes by. But this is also an entertainment industry and the fans don’t watch the games to hear the shrill whistle of stopped play.
It’s true that if the refs started calling Thomas and others for carrying the ball, there would be a few games in which the shrill whistles blew much more frequently. But if they consistently called it, then, after a few games, the shrill whistles would not be much more than now because players would adjust.
Incentives affect behavior, even in the NBA.