NBA referees were instructed to focus on five points of emphasis coming into this season, and two of them could be tough for the Thunder to adjust to.
They include contact on jump shots, traveling, discontinued dribble, illegal screens and delay of game after a made basket.
The last two are where the Thunder could run into the most trouble.
Oklahoma City relies heavily on screen-setting to free up shooters and ballhandlers, and players such as Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison are two of the Thunder's most used screeners. In a January road loss to Denver last season, before illegal screens were a point of emphasis, the Thunder was called for three illegal screens within a two minute, 50 second span in overtime.
While the legality of a screen can be contentious, the delay of game penalty after a made basket is an area the Thunder has much more control over.
Any player whose team has just scored is now prohibited from touching the basketball after it goes through the net. It's been widely reported that the emphasis on this rule is to speed up the game. But that is not the case, according to Joe Borgia, the NBA's vice president of referee operations. Instead, the rule is being implemented to eliminate teams from depriving the new offensive team the opportunity to inbound the ball.
The infraction was called at several points in multiple Thunder games throughout the preseason, and Thunder coach Scott Brooks spoke to his players about the point of emphasis in the team's morning meeting before the season opener Wednesday at Utah.
“It's not a concern, but it's something that we have to be well aware of,” Brooks said. “It's so natural to get the ball and tap it back to the referees. But the league does not want that, and so we have to abide by those rules. It's not a subjective thing. Either you touched it or you didn't touch it … We feel that's a good part of the rules. We want the game to go fast. We want to play fast. When teams do that, it frustrates us, so we want that ball to be free so we can take it out quickly and try to score.”Thunder-Utah box score