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Ask Donnie: Q&A with NBA Director of Officials Don Vaden

POSTED: Jan 28, 2013 10:58 AM ET


Have a question about NBA officiating? Confused on a rule interpretation? Send your questions to Donnie Vaden, the NBA's VP of Referee Operations and Director of Officials. Send an email to: Questions submitted that are not in regards to a rule interpretation or a generic question about NBA Officiating will not be reviewed. Questions regarding specific calls in games will not be answered.

Here is Donnie's latest Q&A:

Q: I am a high school basketball official. I would like advice on which basketball camps I should attend to improve myself to go to the next level of college and then hopefully NBA. I would like some advice or even better some direction. Any information would be great. I have been officiating basketball for nine years and have officiated all age levels. Let me know if you can provide any advice.

A: We receive a lot of questions on how to take your officiating to the next level, and ultimately reach the NBA. Besides getting as much experience as you can, and then doing a thorough and crucial video review of your games to look for areas to improve, you should also attend instructional officiating camps, which provide structured guidance on play calling and mechanics. We've also posted some information about becoming an NBA referee on, which discusses the typical career path. Importantly, you should also register on the site: tell us about yourself and your officiating experience, and keep your profile current. You'll receive notices of scouting and tryout opportunities, and how you can apply to attend.

Q: Is it legal to assist yourself on a dunk by using the backboard. If a player has three options when he has the ball -- pass, shoot, or dribble -- which category does throwing it off the backboard and catching it fall under? A player can't pass to himself. And presumably it's not similar to an inbounds throw-in off another player because in that situation, the ball just needs to touch a player on the court and the player who gains possession just needs to be established inbounds. So what gives?

A: Yes, it is legal to throw the ball off the backboard and then be the first one to touch it. The rulebook mentions this situation specifically: "A player may not be the first to touch his own pass unless the ball touches his back-board, basket ring or another player."

Here's a link to this very play. This is a legal move by JaVale McGee.

Q: If a player shoots the ball and it is an air ball, can he be the first person to touch the ball on the rebound?

A: If the shot is an air ball, meaning it does not hit the rim or backboard, then the shooter may not be the first player to touch it. If he does, a traveling violation will be called.

Q: If a player dribbles over another player's head, is it a violation?

A: The height of a dribble is not a factor when considering the legality of the dribble, as long as the dribble itself is legal (e.g., the player doesn't put any part of his hand under the ball and bring it to a pause)

Q: If an offensive player jumps into the defender and initiates contact, is there a foul by the defender? Does the defender have to be set or moving backwards to avoid a foul being called on him?

A: The answer is: it depends. For the most part, if the contact is enough to constitute a foul, and the play happens just as you describe it, it is an offensive foul. However, there are cases where an offensive player with the ball may jump into a defender, initiating contact, and draw a foul. For example, if a defensive player is guarding an offensive player with the ball and his arms are not vertical (e.g., hovering them over the offensive player's head), the offensive player can attempt a jump shot, initiating contact with a defensive player's arms, and draw a shooting foul. Also, if an offensive player drives to the hoop for a layup, and jumps into a secondary defender who is in the restricted area, it is a foul on the defender (provided the offensive player isn't leading unnaturally with a leg or elbow).

Q: A friend of mine has insisted that it is illegal to box an opponent out on a fast break. Is this a real rule or something my friend made up? Thanks so much for your help clearing this up, it is greatly appreciated.

A: You can tell your friend that boxing a player out is only illegal if the contact is illegal and it has nothing to do with the type of play involved. As with any play, if you beat your opponent to the spot by establishing a legal position in his path, you are allowed to box out. In the case of a fast break, since the play starts outside the lower defensive box (the area from the bottom tip of the free throw circle to the endline between the two 3' posted-up marks), you need to get your torso directly in his path and "beat him to the spot," providing him with enough room to stop and/ or change directions. However, if the play originated inside the LDB (not a fast break), you would need only to beat him to the spot.

Q: Is a technical foul counted as a personal foul on the court?

A: No, Techincal Fouls are not counted as personal fouls.

Q: My eleven-year-old son Jack and I have been debating about what the NBA ruling would be in this situation. A player is on the line shooting two free throws. He shoots the first and misses. While he is waiting for the ball back to shoot his second free throw, a technical foul is called on a player on the defensive team. What is the rule regarding the order of the free throws and possession after the shots?

A: Great question! In this example, the technical foul would be administered first and could be shot by any player on the court at the time of the violation. Then the game would "resume," with the original player shooting his second free throw.

Q: I am having a debate with a friend about the hand being a part of the ball. He feels the hand is part of ball, but only when contact is incidental. My understanding is the hand is part of the ball in all circumstances, even going to the extreme of whacking a guys hand hard when he is shooting or dribbling.

A: You are correct. The hand is part of the ball when it is in contact with the ball. But keep in mind that only the part of the hand that is in contact with the ball is considered as part of the ball. So if you're shooting and an opponent slaps your wrist, that's a foul.