In the Los Angeles Lakers’ game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers last night the Laker roster was so depleted due to injuries and players fouling out that when Robert Sacre (213 cm, Gonzaga’12) committed his sixth foul he was allowed to stay in the game. On any other night the Canadian big man would have had head to the bench, but because two players went down due to injuries during the game and Chris Kaman had already fouled out, an NBA rule requiring teams to have FIVE players on the floor at all times meant Sacre could continue playing.
Despite coming into the game with only eight players available and the team needing an obscure and rarely used NBA rule to keep on playing, the Lakers ended up beating the Cavaliers 119-108.
NBA Rulebook Section I-a and I-b state:
a. Each team shall consist of five players. No team may be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.
b. In the event that there are only five eligible players remaining and one of these players is injured and must leave the game or is ejected, he must be replaced by the last player who was disqualified by reason of receiving six personal fouls. Each subsequent requirement to replace an injured or ejected player will be treated in this inverse order. Any such re-entry into a game by a disqualified player shall be penalized by a technical foul.
Sacre committed his sixth foul with 3:32 remaining in the game and neither he nor his coach, Mike D’Antoni knew about the rule:
“That was just crazy,” Sacre said. “When I got my sixth foul, I was just like, ‘Oh, dang!’ Then I got to come back in, so I thought it was something special. I didn’t know what was going on.”
“I didn’t know about that rule, but it’s a nice rule,” D’Antoni said with a chuckle.