NBA referee Courtney Kirkland raced in from the baseline to jump in front of Brooklyn Nets forward's Kris Humphries free-throw attempt during the fourth quarter of the Nets' matchup with the Toronto Raptors:
There is an explanation for this, albeit not a great one.
According to Nets blogger Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game, substitutes were about to check into the game following Humphries' first free throw, which gave the Nets an 81-68 lead with 7:41 left in the fourth quarter, and Kirkland wanted Humphries to hold off on firing until everybody was on the court and settled in their proper positions; the horn-triggered between-shots substitution period is a stoppage in play, and the refs had to officially call "game on" before Hump could continue. (This, of course, makes sense; without this rule, if Humphries had missed the second free throw, it could result in, say, the Raptors grabbing the rebound and hustling a lead pass off to just-checked-in guard Jose Calderon, who'd have a breakaway after essentially streaking out of the penalty box. Which could be neat, but also sounds chaotic and kind of cheap. Who needs more cherry picking?)
So, in theory, yes: Kirkland's desire to slow things down makes some sense. A quick re-read of the section on free throws in the NBA rule book doesn't seem to contain anything on "soaring in to swat any mid-substitution freebies," though; if anything, Kirkland or one his esteemed associates could have just waived off Humphries' second shot and called for him to retake it after everyone was set. This leaves us with three potential, possibly related explanations:
1. Kirkland's self-described passion for his art got the best of him in the moment and boiled over on the floor;
2. In that moment of unbridled passion, he forgot that he and all other referees are outfitted with loud whistles for just such an occasion;
3. In the wake of recent incidents involving Joey Crawford and David Jones, perhaps Kirkland wanted to go viral, too.
Hey, referees read blogs, too. (Probably.)
Humphries proved a good sport in the incident, laughing off the attempted swat and making his second free throw. He finished 9 for 10 from the line on the night, contributing 11 points and two rebounds in nearly 18 minutes off the Brooklyn bench in the Nets' 94-88 road win over the struggling Raptors. Joe Johnson (23 points on 7-for-14 shooting and four assists) led the way for the Nets, who got 23 points and 20 rebounds from the now-starting combo of Andray Blatche and Reggie Evans to break a five-game losing streak.
Thanks to Ball Don't Lie