The NBA's decision to make enforcing delay-of-game violations after made baskets a point of emphasis for officials drew the ire of some fans who felt that blowing a whistle every time a player moving from offense to defense touched a ball that had just gone through the hoop would result in choppy, flowless play marked by stutter-started possessions and, once a team had burned through its initial warning, more technical fouls and trips to the free-throw line for the opposition. (This did happen during several preseason games, making already difficult-to-sit-through exhibition affairs even tougher to watch at times.)
Two weeks into the season, players are showing signs of adjusting to the "look, don't touch" imperative, but that doesn't mean they like it. New York Knicks forward Metta World Peace, naturally, offered Scott Cacciola of the New York Times a characteristically quotable take on the matter:
World Peace had a hand, quite literally, in three delay-of-game calls [last week in a game against the Bobcats], including once when he tapped the ball to his teammate Raymond Felton (who threw it to an official, which was a no-no) and later when he tossed the ball over his head like a bouquet of flowers. While the Knicks sailed to an easy win, World Peace was annoyed.
“It’s their league,” said World Peace, who clearly had no idea what he had done wrong. “It’s a hard adjustment for these guys making the rules because a lot of them have never played basketball. It’s like me trying to make rules for Microsoft or something.”
(An aside: "who clearly had no idea what he had done wrong" is about as perfect a description as possible of World Peace's general method of walking through the world, isn't it? Think back to the question Ron-Ron asked former Indiana Pacers teammate Stephen Jackson in the locker room after the Malice in the Palace brawl: "Jack, you think we going to get in trouble?" Much has changed for Metta over the years, but apparently not everything.)
Now, back to the matter at hand: Man, would I love to see Metta World Peace make rules for Microsoft. Maybe he could get some New York rappers of the '90s to replace Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the XBox One launch party. Or get every employee in Redmond, Wash., wearing D-Bands.
"Hey, guys, just a quick head's up: We're going to start investing heavily in cell phone watch technology, despite that not being our thing. Also, now every Wednesday night is Employee Movie Night, where we watch movies I picked out. Tonight's triple feature: 'All Wifed Up', 'The Eleventh Victim' and 'Heavyweights.'" And so on.
We don't know exactly who recommended enhanced enforcement of the made-basket delay-of-game rule; it reportedly came out of a meeting of the league's general managers back in May, and while many GMs did play the game, a number also did not, giving Metta a puncher's chance of being right here. That said, it's worth remembering that the rule, y'know, did already exist, and that the intent of the emphasis — preventing teams getting back on defense from making it harder on the opposition to inbound the ball quickly and try to push it up the floor — is the kind of thing that seems much more interested in producing fun basketball than, say, cracking down on players' pre-game rituals.
It's an actual basketball thing, and it seems to be working, or at least helping — as Grantland's Zach Lowe noted Tuesday, more NBA teams are hitting the gas and playing at warp speeds, with six averaging more than 100 possessions per game (which nobody did last season) and 13 averaging more than top 2012-13 burners the Houston Rockets did. Removing impediments to teams getting up and down has helped create surprisingly fun and competitive surprises like the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns, and while the number of delay-of-game whistles has skyrocketed in the early going — 83 delay-of-game violations as of last Sunday, compared to two at the same juncture last season, according to Cacciola — it hasn't (to my eye, at least) been nearly as egregious a wrench in the game's flow as we might have feared.
As players get more accustomed to letting the ball go — and multiple teams are incorporating drills to that effect to help pound it into their heads — the number of whistles will go down, and then we'll just have the pace. (Or, alternately, the league will stop caring, as it so often does about similar point-of-emphasis endeavors, and then everything will go back to normal.) Whether it was suggested by someone who's played a ton at the highest level or has just watched enough ball to know that players have been getting away with those transition-defense-aiding post-make touches for years, it seems like a fairly decent bit of enforcement ... which, now that I think about it, gives me renewed hope for the policy shifts Metta might make if given a shot at Microsoft. Yo, Steve Ballmer — if you're still serious about getting involved in the NBA, this seems like a pretty awesome place to start.
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