NBA referees will keep closer watch on groin hits, traveling in '16-17

ELIZABETH, N.J. -- NBA referees will be cracking down this season on the kind of hits to the groin area that resulted in Draymond Green's suspension during the NBA Finals.

They also will more closely monitor traveling after complaints from coaches that players are getting away with too many steps on the perimeter.

The referees were informed and instructed about those items this week during their preseason meetings and training camp.

The hits to the groin -- termed "unnatural acts" by the league -- are a point of emphasis after a number of situations involving Green during the postseason. Golden State's All-Star forward had a habit of flailing his arms or legs and a few times made contact with opponents in the groin area.

He was finally suspended after hitting Cleveland's LeBron James during the Finals and missed Game 5 because of an accumulation of flagrant foul points. Cleveland rallied to beat Golden State for the title in seven games.

Joe Borgia, the NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations, said players are no longer just swinging their arms in attempt to draw a foul when taking a shot.

"Now all of a sudden legs are coming out in different directions at weird times, they're coming higher," he said. "Well, for the protection of the players, we're going to stop it."

Another point of emphasis is making sure players are allowed freedom of movement away from the ball.

Critics have long griped that walking isn't called enough in the NBA, and coaches shared the complaint with officials at their recent meeting. Referees will watch especially for players who spot up behind the 3-point arc looking to shoot, but then are chased off by a defender and often get away with an extra step as they begin their dribble.

Also, referees manning the Replay Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, will continue to be given greater responsibility this season. Owners will vote on a plan in October to have the replay official make the ruling on all plays that are reviewed, except for ones involving flagrant fouls and fights.

Former referee Lee Jones was voted the winner of the inaugural Greg Willard Spirit Award, recognizing a current or former official for his service, professionalism and leadership. Jones officiated 1,749 regular-season games and 71 playoff games from 1971-96.

Bob Delaney, the NBA's vice president of referee operations and director of officials, said if an active referee wins the award, he would for one game wear the former No. 57 of Willard, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2013 at 54.