April 28, 2011
NBAniks have long had a tough go of things trying to compare players from different eras, or various teams or dynasties that came before them. The pro game has changed around quite a bit over the last 65 years, with fast-paced and horribly inefficient play giving way to a dull game that saw terrible spacing due to a lack of a 3-point line, to the supposed (and defensively challenged) glory days of the '80s, the super-slow aftermath where defense was king, and whatever era we're in now. The greatest era, I'll submit. The game is great. Did you see Kevin Durant(notes) hit that game-clincher Wednesday night?
And David Stern, because he wants to go out in a blaze of incompetence and needless gravitas, wants to say bully to all that (no pun intended). He wants to make it legal for Nick Collison(notes) to swat an otherwise gorgeous Dirk Nowitzki(notes) jumper off the rim, as it swishes around the goal and prepares to drop in.
He wants to allow international-style goaltending rules to take hold of the NBA game. And he's a right nutter, if I can speak like an English-speaking European, for wanting to do so.
From an interview with Dan LeBatard, via Sports Radio Interviews:
"Well I'm going to urge the owners -- and it's not very radical but we were talking about it for awhile -- to adopt the international rule on basket interference. That is to say, once the ball hits the rim it's in play. Because I think that it's too hard to call. I think that we don't want to stop the game every time to see if it's the right call, but the camera that looks down on the basket can tell the story if the refs have gotten it right. And it's just impossible to call to make whether the ball's touching the rim, on the rim, off the rim or the like. And I think that would make the game faster, better, and less controversial."
Yes, totally less controversial. Because a player jumping up to knock a ball that is rolling around on a 10-foot rim would happen, what, once or twice a game? To Stern's eyes, the amount of iffy goaltending calls (usually about one or two a contest) would simply be replaced by the newly legal international-style legal goaltending.
Also, he's crazy to think that.
Apologies for going in this direction, but the NBA is a more athletic league than you're typical FIBA-based organization. Players are bigger, they jump higher, and they're steadied around the rim more often than their international counterparts. Toss in a few years worth of practice as players get used to taking shots off the rim, and you'd have field goal percentages dropping significantly as players learn to do this every other time down court. Just as it currently is with the charge calls that "defenders" can ably rely on as they run underneath someone who has jumped in the air, or the old illegal defense calls that Stern had to adjust for a decade ago.
One can't compare this sort of change to the time players spend in international tournaments like the Olympics, because the quick training camp and dozen-game turn doesn't lend itself to getting used to legal goaltending.
A full training camp and, with playoff teams, a hundred-game season? That's different. And that would, pardon my junior high French, suck.
Stern is full of hot air these days, as he gets ready to lock out his players in the midst of record attendance and much-improved TV ratings, so there is the good chance that he's just full of fake bluster as he tries to change the headlines away from the referees (oh, crap, I just realized that this was yet another backhanded way of slamming the league's beleaguered refs) and the lockout and into something that will make a good cable TV segment, but the idea deserves to be swatted down before it even gets to committee.
Legally, of course. With the shot, however poorly aimed, on its way up.