Weekly Countdown: What rule changes could be coming soon?
5 Rule-changing issues
This promises to be a big summer for instant replay as the NBA seeks more ways to use it during games ...
5. Clock management. The clock malfunction in Detroit that enabled the Pistons to convert a three-pointer against the Magic after the third quarter expired has created demand for a greater use of replay next season. But it's not as simple as gathering referees around a television at the scorer's table: For rare cases like this one, the league must find a way to synchronize replays with its precision timing system (i.e. the gadget worn on officials' belts that connects their whistles to the game clock).
"We need a combination of replay and some timing mechanism better than a simple stopwatch,'' said Stu Jackson, the NBA's executive vice president of basketball operations. "If the technology is available, we should consider finding a way to reduce the time on the clock.''
The league was pursuing this technology before the incident in Detroit. Its use will be examined by the competition committee in June. The fear of a similar fourth-quarter mishap in the NBA Finals should inspire everyone to seek a resolution as quickly as possible.
4. Goaltending. While the international governing body FIBA recently announced several rules changes that will make international games look more like the NBA (see below), one possible rule that could be imported to North America is the death of goaltending. FIBA competitions -- including the Olympics and the Euroleague -- allow defenders to block shots after they've hit the rim, even if the ball is above the cylinder. The D-League experimented with this rule for two seasons (2005-07) but the competition committee declined to recommend its use for the NBA.
"Some [on the competition committee] felt that it could cause more rough play under the basket, and others didn't see a reason to change the [goaltending] rule as we have it now,'' Jackson said. "But it will remain on our radar for coming years.''
In other words, we may yet see this rule in the NBA someday soon. I am in favor of it as an exciting play that would bring athleticism to the other end of the floor -- the defensive version of the dunk. And it couldn't be dismissed as a gimmick because this rule has been the norm for basketball around the world.
3. Instant replay. The competition committee is expected to consider a proposal -- put forth by the coaches' union headed by Rick Carlisle -- enabling each team to use instant replay to challenge non-judgment rulings, such as whether a three-point shot was a two-pointer. The coaches' rules committee has made a formal recommendation that each team receive one instant-replay challenge to be used in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime. If the challenge of the three-vs.-two call was successful, then the challenging team would retain the right to challenge another play. But if the original call was upheld, then the challenging team would lose either a full timeout or -- if all those timeouts had been spent -- a 20-second timeout. A team without timeouts could not issue a challenge.
2. Flagrant fouls. Despite complaints that flagrant fouls are being assessed for hard fouls that used to be accepted as routine, this is one interpretation that won't be changed. "I'm perfectly happy with it,'' said Jackson, who believes that the deterrent of flagrant fouls has led to fewer hard fouls. "Knock on wood, we've had only two altercations on the floor this entire season in 1,200-plus games, and the number of flagrant fouls is down since last year.
"Now, if you're making the case that we should bring in replay to review all flagrant fouls, that's something we would be open to. That could be brought to the competition committee this year.''
1. Trapezoidal lane. It was surprising to hear that FIBA had sided with the NBA on several rules changes starting in October 2010, including the abandonment of the trapezoidal lane in favor of an NBA-sized rectangular lane. There has long been speculation that the NBA would take on the international three-second area, though San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was among those against it.
"We all talk about that so much, and we all go back and forth with it,'' Popovich told me last year. "The court is so doggone crowded the way it is now, I think it would really limit what goes on out here. When you think about post play, it would really take it away. There are some advantages [to the international lane], but overall guys are too big. If the court got bigger, you could do it.''
Jackson believes FIBA wasn't looking to synchronize with the NBA so much as it wanted to create more space for offensive players around the basket. FIBA also implemented the no-charge zone -- the dotted semi-circle under the basket.
"As hard as the no-charge zone has been to officiate,'' Jackson said, "it has benefited our game and incentivized guys to drive to the rim, and it has cut down on the number of injuries by players taking charges under the rim.''
FIBA also extended its three-point line from the current 20 feet, 6.1 inches to 22 feet, 1.7 inches. FIBA plans to further extend its line over the next 10 years to the NBA distance of 23-9.
There has been talk that the NBA may instead shorten its three-point shot to meet FIBA 2010 specifications. But Jackson doesn't sound as if he's in favor of that.
"We're now attempting more three-point shots and shooting a higher percentage from the three-point line than we have in the history of that shot,'' he said. "Having the three-point line has helped the spacing in our game.''