One of the great accomplishments for David Stern and the NBA has been to see the growth of the game internationally. As the game has grown and operated under two different sets of rules, Stern and FIBA have tried to work together to make the game more uniform. After much FIBA insistence, it appears Stern is preparing to suggest to the NBA that it adopt FIBA's goaltending rules.
If you remember from way back during the Olympics or FIBA World Championships when ESPN or NBC feels obligated to explain the rule differences, FIBA plays with a rule that states the ball is live while it is above the rim. It means a player may knock the ball off the rim after it bounces off of it without facing goaltending. FIBA has been pushing Stern to help it make the rules more uniform and this could be a big step in that process.
FIBA is already preparing to change from the trapezoidal lane used in international play to the rectangular lane used in the NBA and NCAA. FIBA also recently pushed the 3-point line back a foot too. It makes sense considering how much better shooters have become (and perhaps pressure from the NBA considering no players take shots from that short of range anymore... except for the Hawks).
FIBA, in turn, wanted some influence on the uniform rules of basketball and Stern appears to agree, more from a management and officiating standpoint than anything else. As Stern told 790 AM The Ticket in Miami:
"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 a 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."
It appears Stern is trying to take things out of the referees hands by instituting this rule and pretty much eliminating goaltending rules. Officials would still have to make decisions about goaltending such as deciding whether the ball is coming down or not but the decision about whether the ball is on or off the rim is taken out of the officials hands, because under this rule it would not matter.
It certainly could make the game more exciting. Put back dunks for guys like Dwight Howard and LeBron James become a lot easier when you don't have to wait for the ball to come off the rim. It emphasizes just raw athleticism more than timing on rebounds (Kevin Love's not happy about this rule). Positioning of course still matters.
This type of call would certainly solve the problem from the Kendrick Perkins tip-in of Oklahoma City's Game 1 win over Denver. And with the referees constantly being a point of fan scrutiny, maybe taking some power out of their hands is not a bad idea.
The athleticism of the NBA's players may make this rule pretty moot, killing the rebounding ability of plodders like Kevin Love, Zach Randolph or even Tim Duncan. Some European players seem pretty skeptical it can work at the NBA level. However the NBA's great experimenting ground, the D-League, has been using the goaltending rule with little fanfare.
It's a minor issue for the NBA to solve this summer but it's also a clear indication that international basketball and the NBA will be looking like each other more and more going forward.
Photo via DayLife.com.