Saturday, April 26, 2008

FIBA Makes the Giant Leap - Adopts NBA Rules for International Basketball

It's been slow, sometimes almost imperceptible, but over the past 20 years, basketball has become nearly the same game the world over - but yet there were still some slight differences.

But no more. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) took the giant leap yesterday at its meetings in Beijing, when its highest executive body - the FIBA Central Board - announced a number of rule changes, which in effect, will make the international and NBA game virtually the same.

Even FIBA's press release referred to "historical changes", and indeed in one fell swoop, FIBA did a "copy and paste" from the NBA rule book to its own:
  • Beginning October 1, 2010, you can forget about the "funny-looking" international court with the trapezoid 3-second area: it will be a rectangle just like the NBA's

  • 3-point line will go from 6.25 m (20'6") to 6.75 m (22'2"); the NBA line is 6.71 m (22'0") from the baseline to the foul line, and 7.24 m (23'7") on the arc connecting the 2 lines

  • Time-outs in the last 2 minutes of the game and in overtime: the ball will be taken out in the frontcourt at a point opposite the top of the 3-point arc (sound familiar?)

  • Ball knocked out of bounds by the defensive team in backcourt: the offensive team will get a new 24-second clock; if in frontcourt and there is more than 14 seconds, the 24-second clock will stay as is; if 13 seconds or less, the 24-second clock will be reset to 14 seconds (sound familiar?)

  • There will be a restricted circle underneath the basket where in most circumstances an offsenive foul cannot be called (also sound familiar?)
A number of other changes will go into effect beginning October, 2008 including:
  1. No t-shirts under uniforms in any circumstances
  2. A player who falls on the floor and slides while holding the ball will no longer be called for travelling
  3. A player won't be deemed to be in frontcourt until two feet and the ball are in contact with the frontcourt (another direct steal from US rules - NBA and NCAA)
  4. A technical foul can be called on a player for excessively swinging his elbows, even if no contact was made (another NBA rule)

The ONLY major difference that remains, as far as I can tell from the FIBA release, is that there is still no concept of a "cylinder" in international basketball, i.e. once the ball hits the rim, it's a free ball.

Given the innumerable Americans playing on teams in every league in almost every country around the world, this will certainly smooth the transition for everyone, and will also hasten the day coming soon when the NBA begins expanding globally.

For those who want to take a look at the FIBA press release:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sometimes One Call Can Ruin an Evening...

Sometimes, it doesn't matter. You can have a great evening, making all the right decisions - and then one call ruins everything.

Such was the situation this evening at the Nokia Stadium in Tel Aviv in the quarter-final best-of-three third game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Barcelona, eventually won by Maccabi 88-75.

Situation: third quarter, Vontego Cummings (ex-Pitt) is guarding Barcelona's hot-shooting Italian guard, Gianluca Basile. Cummings wraps him up under the basket and drags him to the floor- no call! Basile understandably reacts emotionally and kicks back somewhat at Cummings - the two of them engage in some silly slapping at each other while players from both teams separate them, including Maccabi's Derrick Sharp and Esteban Batista, who have come off the bench to intervene. There were no closed fists, and no one even tried to throw a punch.

The referees snap into action and overrreact: Cummings and Basile are ejected, as well as Sharp and Batista. Barcelona is of course the big loser in all of this as Basile, their top scorer (25 ppg in the first two games of the series) heads to the locker room.

Oh, and one other problem: the referees forget to make sure that Batista knows that he's ejected and they leave him on the bench until the begnning of the 4th quarter, when they discover their mistake and send him, too, to the showers. No one understands quite why he has been ejected - very embarassing.

The whole thing was unnecessary. Cummings should have been called for the initial foul, and if anything, he and Basile could have been assessed unsportsmanlike fouls. Sharp and Batista were rightly tossed from the game - but their ejections were administered poorly, to say the least.

The NBA has very clear directives regarding these situations and would have taken care of this very simply: regular foul against Cummings, likely technicals against Cummings and Basile, and they would have stayed in the game. Sharp and Batista would have been tossed for coming off the bench. The key to throwing a player out is whether or not the hand becomes closed in a fist and a punch is thrown (whether it connects or not thereafter is irrelevant). I know Europeans are always wary of American "imperialism", but on matters of basketball officiating, the Euroleague could sometimes try to learn a few things from their American cousins.