7 NBA Rule Changes We'd Like to See
Kudos to the NBA for getting something done on the flopping front. How much it works and how much it impacts the game is yet to be seen, but something is better than nothing.
Now that they've at least started taking care of one of the items that makes watching the NBA harder than it should be, let's look at some other rule changes we'd like to see made.
Some of these are actual changes in the way the rules are written and some have more to do with the way the rules are called. One of them has to to with how it's called, not by the refs, but by the media.
In each case I'll suggest a rule change, a penalty for violating it, and a more severe, (but slightly less realistic) penalty for violating it.
Eliminate the Handshakes Between Free Throws
The NBA is focusing on the wrong handshaking rituals.
It's become this obligatory thing that players have to do between free throws. Everyone has to come and shake hands or "give five" to the shooter.
Is that really necessary? If you make it, you've made what is basically the easiest shot in basketball—they call it a free throw for a reason, you know.
If you miss it, you've failed to accomplish the easiest thing in basketball.
So what is the handshake for? To encourage your teammate for screwing up? Imagine if you're watching a baseball game and every time a pitcher throws a ball, everyone has to come in and shake his hand.
Imagine if you took something to Kinkos to get copied, and every time a page ran off the copier, everyone came and shook the hand of the employee. Or if you go to McDonalds and every time a hamburger is successfully wrapped, everyone shakes the hand of the cook.
You get the point. It's called doing your job.
Excessive handshaking does nothing except waste time. Excessive handshaking should result in a delay of game and a loss of the next free-throw attempt.
Of course, there is one exception to this rule. If Dwight Howard makes a free throw, they should set off fireworks, release the salsa band, serve the margaritas and have an instant five-minute celebration. That should take less than five minutes per game.
Alternative Penalty: After the game is concluded and the players are showered and ready to go home, they should have to sit in the stands and watch footage of themselves shaking hands. A few 30-minute delays getting home should help them "get a grip" on the issue.
Give the Fans a Technical for Misbehaving
Fans feel that any call which goes against their team is a horrible call. Sometimes you just know if the exact same thing happened in reverse, the fans would still be booing. I know. I'm one of them!
It's easy to blame the refs for every misfortune the team encounters, especially in the NBA, where there are so many judgment calls.
Sometimes those calls aren't bad calls, though, and the fans want to make the game about the refs but the reality is, the game is about their team playing badly.
Sometimes the fans can take over a game, chanting obscenities or berating the refs. You can't legislate booing out of the game, but you can give the refs a chance to restore order when it's lost.
One thing that the NBA could do about it is to issue a warning if the fans were to get excessively unruly. If the fans don't behave, the home team is issued a technical foul.
Alternative Punishment: Make the fans step out on the court one by one while the rest of the fans hurl verbal abuse at him or her.
When a Shooter Initiates Contact, It Should Be an Offensive Foul
When I was on my first team of organized basketball, I was in the fifth grade in 1978. Things were simpler then. One of the first things I was coached to learn is if you initiated contact, you were guilty of the foul. Now, players are criticized for not initiating contact and drawing fouls.
When the words "initiate contact and draw the foul" can be uttered in that sequence, there's a problem with the rules. Basketball is a non-contact sport. Initiating contact sort of flies in the face of that.
The way the rules are written, a shooter needs to be given enough room to change direction or come down when he takes a shot. That's pretty important. You don't want defenders sticking their feet under a shooter in a manner which could risk injury.
Some offensive players have taken this to an extreme, though, and made it so that if they can flail about wildly sufficiently, contort their body enough or somehow do something to initiate contact with a defender (who is doing everything in their power to avoid contact), they get fouled.
Call me old-fashioned, but when one player kicks or slaps another player, the one getting kicked/slapped should be the one getting fouled, and the one doing the kicking/slapper should be called for the foul.
The rules stipulate that the offensive player has to be allowed room to come down, but they should have a qualifier in there about "in the normal course of a shot." If a player contorts himself in an unnatural way or changes direction unnaturally in order to draw contact, it should be called an offensive foul.
Loopholes in the rules shouldn't be a substitute for running an offense. Are you listening, Oklahoma City?
Alternative Penalty: Freebies! If a player is trying to initiate contact by contorting himself, give the defender a chance to defend himself without penalty. A couple of good, solid checks to the floor should straighten out these issues.
Hack-a-Whomever Must Stop
I appreciate that the NBA likes scoring because it makes the game more "watchable." Does it always, though? What about when scoring makes the game unwatchable because it slows the game down to ridiculous lengths?
Some teams, in order to trim into a lead, will play "defense" by fouling a horrible shooter, gambling that they'll miss enough free throws to enable them to cut into a lead. Oklahoma City did this famously in the postseason last year, making for 2.3 years of the most unwatchable basketball I've ever seen in one game.
According to the NBA rules, though, it's all perfectly legal, so there needs to be rule change. The NBA needs to take the advantage away from the defense to play defense by not playing defense.
One way of doing that is if a defensive team fouls any player three successive times away from the ball, or four times in any one quarter, then the offensive team team gets to pick the player to shoot the free throws.
Another option would be to just extend the "foul-away-from-the-ball" rule that is currently only imposed during the last two minutes with the same stipulations. Three fouls on the same player away form the ball or four in one quarter, and you get the ball back after Tiago splits his free throws or after Dwight Howard misses them both.
If Manu Ginobili is taking the free throws en lieu of Tiago Splitter, there is a much smaller chance of him splitting the free throws.
Alternative Punishment: Let the horrendous free-throw shooter take one step closer to the basket each time he gets fouled.
Crack Down on Moving Screens
Players like Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler are absolute masters of the moving screen, and that has far more impact on a game than many people realize. It's been said that the NBA is a "pick-and-roll league," but it should be called an "illegal pick and roll league."
The number of plays this impacts is much larger than the number of flops you see and gives the offense a huge advantage. The pick, even if legal, gives the offense the advantage (which is why the league is a pick and roll league). Illegal picks give an even bigger advantage.
Too often, though, you see a picker leap in front of a player who is going at full speed and does not have sufficient time to stop.
The purpose of the pick and roll is to create a mismatch or create an open player. It's harder to go over a screen than it is to go under it. To go under it is to take the path of least resistance, but that's what the offense wants. That's what they're shooting for.
Moving screens add to that advantage. If a picked player is going over and the player who is setting the pick is moving, it's going to make it harder for the defensive player to fight through the pick.
When this happens on virtually every play, it gives the offense just a lot-of-bit of an advantage, and some players have turned this into an art form.
The reason that Doug Collins is "working the refs" here is that the refs are repeatedly missing the call. They finally whistle Garnett, but only after he's committed about 17,287.3 moving screens in the series, and it's only Game 3!
Another thing that has become much to common is that picking players doesn't allow appropriate space. NBA.com, in clarifying the rule, explains it this way.
When picking a stationary opponent from the backside, you must give that player a step to stop and /or change direction since he cannot see you. If the opponent is moving, you must get to your position and give him enough distance to stop and/or change direction. The speed of the player will determine the distance. You cannot just jump in front of a player at the last second.
This is a tough thing to fix in-game. Refs can't always see them, but with the benefit of instant replay, the NBA can offer fines in fashion similar to the flopping rules. This is actually far more serious than the flopping, though, because someone can get wrecked and seriously injured by some of these illegal screens.
Alternative Penalty: Allow players who are getting screened illegally the right to clothesline the pick setter.
Fine the Media for Misinforming the Public
How many times have you watched an NBA game and the announcer in determining whether a call should have been a charge or a block mulls over whether the defender's feet were set? Roughly every one?
Here is the reality that might shock a lot of NBA fans. Feet being said are not the test of a charge call. In fact, NBA refs make fun of fans for doing that, according to Henry Abbot of ESPN.
A lot of calls that look like charges are correctly called blocks. When you rewind these plays on your Tivo, don't do what referees make fun of fans for doing: Trying to decide if the players feet were set before the contact. That's not the standard. What you want to know is: Is the defensive player's torso set in position before the offensive player begins his upward motion? The defense can not slide into position after the offensive player has reached this stage.
That's according to Abbot's conversations with Joe Borgia, who, for most of the last 15 years, has been the foremost expert in the world on the NBA rules. He is the vice president of referee operations. He's the son of Sid Borgia, who spent 20 years as an NBA official himself.
He only helps write the rules and teach referees how to interpret them and call them on the court. He knows more about the rules than you do; I can guarantee it.
The point here is that it's not "me" who is telling you this. It's Borgia, who told Abbot, who wrote about it, and got quote here.
According to Brogia, it's not whether the feet are in position it's whether the torso is in position. So every time you're getting told that it's the feet, you're getting told something wrong, no matter how many times you've been told that.
I know this is shocking. I know that some people reading this are having there world order upset and wondering if next I'm going to challenge the existence of gravity. I'm fully aware that the near universal perception is that charging has something to do with the feet being set. It doesn't.
So why does the entire world believe something that isn't true? Because we learned to watch NBA basketball from the announcers who are repeatedly telling you what's wrong.
It's time they bore accountability! The NBA should be allowed to fine announcers who are misinforming the public. I'm not sure how the logistics of this would work out, but technically, they could fine the network in question and let the network deal with it.
There's a lot of bad information regarding rules that gets passed on by the announcers that the fans then take as gospel. (Look up restricted area and lower-defensive box if you want to learn another misconception). In truth, that's why there's a lot of the booing of perfectly legitimate calls.
Alternative Penalty: Allow NBA officials to announce a game of announcers announcing a game and reviewing their performance.
Give Coaches 3 Challenges, a La the NFL
The NBA refs have a tough job. At times, it's downright impossible. We watch the game on our Tivos and in high def in slow motion on a 50-inch screen with 183 different camera angles and say that was a bad call.
If we can see it, why can't they?
They have one angle and they watch in live in regular motion. Actually, it's pretty stunning how often they get the call right. I'd love to see a single whining fan do the job for a quarter of an NBA game and find out how hard it is.
Still, it's impossible to get the call right all the time, and not every game-changing play happens in the last two minutes of the game. So why not impose a rule like the NFL has and allow coaches two challenges each, and if both are upheld, they get a third?
There could be limitations set on what is and is not challengable, but this is one area where the flopping rules could be easily enforced. Refs could take the moment to view the monitor and find out if a payer was really fouled or flopping.
Other things, such as which player a ball went out of bounds off of, could be challenged by coaches. It wouldn't hold the game up too much because of the limited number of uses, butt it would be nice to know that coaches had that flag in their pocket to use when they need it.