Last night's Warriors vs. Thunder game managed to be filled with plenty of drama and enough camera pans to give Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook their own reality-television show. However, halfway through the game, something else happened. Russell Westbrook received an inbound pass and proceeded to walk up the court without dribbling the basketball. In total, Westbrook took six steps before being called for traveling.
Westbrook's blatant travel can be seen below:
While the NBA has long been a game of restrictions and officiating, players have continuously found different ways to stretch the limitation of rules in the sport. Just as the NFL has had discrepancies with their catch rules, the NBA's traveling dilemma has also been brought to light with the emergence of social media and instant replay. The league's officiating manages to miss some of the most blatant travel calls to viewers at home, but most missed travels have little impact on the outcome of games.
For example, James Harden's signature step back has drawn criticism from NBA fans for bending the rulebook of the league. Harden's step back consists of three steps. The first is a push-step backward, followed by his second and third steps from landing. Generally speaking, players are allowed two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball. A player who receives the ball while standing may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
Harden's move has even caused reddit users to post threads based off clips of his supposed uncalled travel:
Last year against the Spurs, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was vocal regarding an uncalled travel that cost the Warriors a game during their record-setting regular season. "I need to write down that traveling is now allowed in the NBA," Kerr said after the 87-79 loss in an interview with ABC7. "Silly me. I forgot that they got rid of that rule, so we'll have to adjust."
The issue with the lack of transparency regarding the rule of traveling poses a real problem for the NBA, especially during pivotal moments. Referees can only catch so much given how fast the game is played. The league has the opportunity to implement a solution before the integrity of the game and an undeserving victor is crowned because of it. One solution that comes to mind would be allotting each team one challenge call on a missed call.
Moreover, the league ultimately determines what goes and what does not. One thing is for certain, the lines are blurred now more than ever.