NBA commissioner David Stern holds a lot of power, but he can't make new on-court rules on his own. That job falls to the league's Competition Committee, an appointed group of owners, general managers, coaches and one player who decide how to improve the sport. In some cases, that involves introducing new rules — in others it means abolishing existing ones.
For years, the Competition Committee consisted entirely of general managers. Last week, Stern changed the format and created a new nine-man group including Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle. To most observers, the list looked perfectly normal.
This was a commissioner-driven production, even though the league made it a point to announce that its owners called for the change. According to ownership sources, they did, but only after Stern first went to them and told them he wanted a new, smaller committee that would implement the changes he is seeking before he retires. He has told friends he's probably going to step down after two more seasons.
The new committee was hand-picked by Stern and consists of two owners, four GMs and three coaches. When they come up with rules changes, those will go directly to the 30 owners for their consideration and vote. [...]
"Stern is looking for more control," said a source. "He hasn't been able to get some things done because he's had to deal with 30 general managers and he can't control them. But now he has his people on the committee."
Stern's new committee is expected to work on two major rules changes right away: Adopting the international rule for goaltending, meaning that balls could be legally knocked off the rim or backboard that now would result in a basket; and penalizing "floppers."
The idea is a simple one: Stern wanted certain rules and couldn't get them through the committee in charge of those rules, so he reformed the structure of that committee and packed it with people who'd be receptive to his goals. It's a classic management strategy, especially for vaguely megalomaniacal leaders used to getting what they want.
It also could be a good move in the long-term for a league that could use some of these changes. As we discussed last Monday, Stern expressed some interest in policing flopping and blamed previous Competition Committee members for blocking it. Outcry has been strong against the tactic throughout the playoffs, and rules could at least increase fan confidence in the league (though there's still some question as to how you stop a tactic intended to make intentional flopping look unintentional). The international goaltending rule has also been discussed for years and should add some excitement to plays around the basket.
So, while Stern's methods might be questionable and not strictly fair to the spirit of the Competition Committee, it also could be for the good of the league. What you make of this situation probably depends on your view of Stern and his role. But for most fans — the people who just want to see a better version of basketball — Stern's tricks could have a positive effect on the NBA. If the end is a good thing, then the means don't matter quite so much.