Fans of just about every team complain at some point about not getting their fair share of foul calls, but as Trail Blazers fans, you have a legitimate beef. Portland is 27th out of 30 teams when it comes to free-throws attempted, shooting an average of 22.5 freebies per game.
There are reasons. First and foremost, the Trail Blazers shoot a lot of jump shots. A lot. I seem to have misplaced the link, but I remember reading about a week ago that only the New Orleans Hornets shoot more jumpers than the Trail Blazers, which could be one reason why Portland goes to the line so infrequently. Fouling a jump shooter is the cardinal sin on defense, so most players try to avoid doing such a thing.
The Trail Blazers also have a very young team, which means they've yet to develop a profile among officials. Brandon Roy is getting to the point where officials know roughly what he's going to do and call fouls accordingly, but no one else on the team has that kind of credibility with the guys in gray. Maybe that will change when we've had some long-term success, but don't expect it to happen anytime soon.
But there's another reason why the Trail Blazers are not getting to the line, and it comes down to something Nate McMillan calls "the game within the game."
To hear McMillan explain it, the game within the game comes down to selling yourself on the court in order to draw a foul. You've seen it hundreds of times. It's throwing your arms up after you run into a screen. It's yelling. And yes, it's flopping.
"Flopping is part of it," says McMillan. "Acting is a part of it. And yelling. You go to the basket and you feel a hand on your body, yell. The officials sometimes will call the yell and not see the foul. Right now we’re just playing through that as opposed to playing the game within the game."
Basically the Trail Blazers are too proud to beg. No one aspires to be a flopper, especially young players who are trying to forge a toughness on the court, but with the proper persuading and coaching, guys are starting to come around to the idea of playing the game within the game.
"We have to do a better job of letting the referees know what’s going on," said LaMarcus Aldridge. "I think we have a tendency to try and go through it. You know, be strong and not look soft, but sometimes you’ve got to flop a little bit. Well, I wouldn’t say flop, but make it more obvious that the guy is grabbing and holding you.
"It’s just knowing how to do it and when to do it. I think older teams, they know when someone is pushing, just flop with it. I think as we get older and go through this we’ll learn more."
Hopefully they'll continue to learn on their own, but McMillan isn't leaving their tutelage to chance.
"You can show them some of the things that teams are doing as far as being physical and grabbing and holding and tying you up," says McMillan. "You’ve got to throw your arms up. You’ve got to act to get that officials attention that they're holding as opposed to just giving in to the aggressive play.
"It’s all apart of it. There’s a little acting involved. There’s a game within the game."