Have Ball, Will Travel: Serge Ibaka

In this installment of Have Ball, Will Travel, we’ll take at a Serge Ibaka jumper during Game 4 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks.

Several Mavs on the floor immediately called for a walk on Ibaka’s play, and they appear to be right. While Ibaka’s violation isn’t all that glaring, he clearly lifts his left foot — after establishing it as his pivot — in order to execute a more emphatic fake to his right. He then lifts his right foot in launching to his left, all of which occurs before Ibaka releases the ball for a dribble. It’s a textbook walk, as both feet are moved before the ball ever leaves Ibaka’s hand.

For reference, here is the exact wording of the relevant (and most well-known) portion of the traveling rule:

“In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player’s hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.”

While officiating the spin move of Dwyane Wade or Blake Griffin presents its own unique challenges (the speed and movement make a proper call incredibly difficult), the veil lifted over the referees’ eyes in this instance is subtlety. Ibaka doesn’t exploit an extra step at the end of his dribble, and thus his travel doesn’t pop out as much against the backdrop of legal basketball play. He makes what could have been a legal move (had it been better executed), but simply slips up on the footwork and commits a traveling violation. Regardless, the violation on this play is cut and dry; the officials may not have seen Ibaka’s slight pivot lift, but it’s certainly there, and allows him to create enough space to fire up an open jumper.

Seth Carstens