Refs facing new pressure to keep count on Giannis at FT line

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Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts after making a shot and being fouled during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference basketball finals game against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Giannis Antetokounmpo's lengthy free-throw routine might be too long to be legal.

Officials are under renewed pressure to enforce the 10-second rule, placing the Milwaukee Bucks' two-time MVP further in the spotlight Friday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks.

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The NBA said Antetokounmpo should have been called for 10-second violations on both free throws he shot with 5.3 seconds remaining in the Hawks' 116-113 Game 1 win on Wednesday night. Antetokounmpo made both free throws, trimming the Hawks' lead to 114-113.

“He’s got his routine,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Friday before the game. “It’s been a big topic of conversation. I get it. I understand it. I think he’s in a good place. I just always say we want to get him to the free throw line. We want him attacking. The more he gets there the better.”

Budenholzer said the NBA isn't officiated with a stopwatch, whether on a 10-second rule at the free throw line or the three seconds players are allowed to be in the paint.

“If you took a clock on an out-of-bounds play, how many times would it take more than five seconds if they wanted to put a stopwatch on it?” Budenholzer asked.

Hawks coach Nate McMillan had a simple reply to that argument.

“Call it,” McMillan said, before adding: “He’s right, though. There are guys that are camping in the lane three seconds and sometimes that’s not called.

"What we have to do is try to bring that to the attention of the league and to the officials during the game and hopefully they make those calls. It’s the same thing with 10 seconds at the free throw line. .. It’s not called every time and the officials, sometimes they miss that, but we want them to be consistent in making those calls.”

Antetokounmpo's habit of taking longer than the maximum 10 seconds allowed by NBA rule is not new.

“I think the whole league notices it, to be honest,” Hawks rookie center Onyeka Okongwu said Friday. “Everyone knows Giannis gets 10-second violations at the free throw line. ... Everyone knows it’s longer than most people’s routine is.”

Asked how players react when officials don't enforce the rule, Okongwu just shrugged.

“That’s up to the referees to make the call, definitely,” Okongwu said. “We can do what we want but at the end of the day the referee makes the call.”

The officials also have noticed, at least occasionally.

Antetokounmpo has been called for 10-second violations twice during the postseason. He was called for his first with just over a minute left in regulation in the Bucks’ 109-107 overtime victory over Miami in Game 1 of the first round. The second came during the Bucks’ 86-83 Game 3 triumph in their second-round series with Brooklyn.

The league's 10-second rule is clear.

According to the NBA's Rule No. 9, Section 1-a, “When a free throw is awarded, an official shall put the ball in play by delivering it to the free throw shooter. The shooter shall be above the free throw line and within the upper half of the free throw circle. He shall attempt the free throw within 10 seconds of controlling the ball in such a way that the ball enters the basket or touches the ring."

Antetokounmpo's routine before taking free throws pushes or exceeds the 10-second limit.

“It’s a rule that we want them to call,” McMillan said. “The NBA announced that should have been called and we hope if that happens again that it is called.”

McMillan wouldn't say if the Hawks asked the NBA to look at the free throws.

Some opposing fans have counted past 10 when he stood at the line, the ball still in his hands.

Brooklyn’s James Harden appeared to show his displeasure with Antetokounmpo's extended stay at the line on multiple occasions during their seven-game series. Harden was animated as he endured long waits for Antetokounmpo, who sometimes asks a referee to delay giving him the ball so he can practice his form first.

Antetokounmpo was voted MVP in 2019 and 2020. He led Milwaukee with 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the Game 1 loss.


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