In the NBA, the way changes to the game are supposed to be introduced is viathe Rules and Competition
Committee. It consists of a member from each team, and it meets a couple times a year to discuss the issues that are
impacting the game itself.
Each year the Mavs, and other teams put together a list of items that we think would benefit the game and propose
it to the committee. Each year since I’ve been in the league, the results have been pretty much the same. We get shot
down, as do the proposals by most other teams. What changes occur are,with rare exceptions,on the
Since change doesn’t come easy inside the league, sometimes creating discussion on the outside is the best forum.
It’s easier to get information in the hands of every GM and owner via the media than it is at an NBA meeting. I know
that they all get their daily printouts of articles and usually read them. If there is any controversy at all. They
definitely read them. There isn’t a toiletin the NBA that doesnt have that days NBA related articles
photocopied, stapled and laying on the floor.
It’s not that the NBA wont allow it or doesn’t encourage proposals or discussions, they do both. The Commish has
made this a point of emphasis and he has gotten results. When I first got into the league there was zero discussion
at meetings I attended. Now there is a lot more valuable give and take going on.The problem now is that there
isn’t enough time for more than a couple issues to be proposed, and there iseven less time for discussion.
There just aren’t enough hours at meetings. Or maybe there just aren’t enough meetings. Either way, because of time
constraints,team thoughts and issues beyond the most impactful financial issues are not proposed or
Which is my way of explaining why I thought it would be a good idea to offer what I have proposed, and would
propose to increase scoring in the NBA.
First, is our annual request to either get rid of the charge line or at least move it further away from the
basket. I have detailed our logic in aprevious blog entry.Each meeting our chances of this passing are
equal toCindy Crawford saying yes to Homer Simpson for a date.
What we haven’t proposed, because it would be immediately dismissed, is the following:
1. The NBA officials have a guideline for incidental contact. Their guideline is that if the incidental contact
doesn’t impact or impede the “Speed, Balance, Quickness or Rhythm” of the offensive player, then a foul will not be
called. The logic of the guideline makes absolutely perfect sense. An offensive player may still have an advantage,
even after the contact, and shouldn’t be penalized for the defensive contact. The league doesn’t want to blow the
whistle stopping a layup over a little bump.
On the surface that is all well and good, and as I said makes perfect sense. HOWEVER, the concept of
advantage is based only on the relationship between a single defender and the offensive player. If we were
talking about a 1 on 1 tournament, the logic would hold up well. We aren’t. In the NBA today, advantage is gained and
lost as a team.
Using the same example, if I beat my man off the dribble and have half a step on him and he has his arm on my
stomach slowing me down just a tiny, tiny bit, I still have him beat. But in this era of help defense and zone
defense, that tiny, tiny bit of timeI was slowed or pushed a tiny bit off course might not have impacted my
ability to get by my defender, but it may have given a weak side help defenderjust enough time to get in
position to defend or impact me in some way.
Before zone defenses,offenses could take defenders far enough away from the ball to open a lane to the
basket. A bump might not matter. Now they can’t. Defenders can be standing in the paint. They can leave the guy they
are supposed to be guarding (this would have been an illegal defense before) and be close enough that thelittle
bump can make the difference between a layup and a missed or blocked shot or a charge.
It also may have created enough time for a guard at the foul line to V back in front ofa teammate standing
in front of the basket while that teammates defender jumped over tochallenge my shot. My advantage as the
offensive playercould be completely gone in the time lost bythe littlest of bumps.
That is where the rule change needs to happen. Any contact on an offensive player with the ball when going towards
the basket should be a foul. If you hadn’t cut your fingernails and you scrape the offensive player on the way, it’s
a foul. If you graze his arm, it’s a foul.
By making any such contacta foul, you completely remove the officials from having to make judgements about
whether theoffensive player or his team has an advantage. It’s an automatic foul. You open up lanes and you
speed up action to the basket.
This is the point in time where all the fools rush in and talk about how the game would slow to a crawl because
there would be so many fouls. It won’t. Did you notice how Kobeavoided any contact when he got beat off the
ball in overtime when he had 5 fouls? Defenders will make the same point not to foul guys who beat them on
their way to the basket. I don’t know why some people think players aren’t smart enough to adjust to changes in
rules. They have for years, and would with this change as well.
This change wouldn’t slow the game, it would speed up the game. More players would put the ball on the floor and
go to the hoop. Players might actually be able to get to the bucket. When weak side help was there, they actually
might be able to get the ball to a teammate before a 3rd defender came over to help.
On the flip side, how would it hurt? What is the downside? If I’m wrong and players can’t adjust, they will foul
out, there will be more foul shots. More points scored with the clock stopped.Let’s stop the bumping and
pushing and let the players play.
One last point. What made me realize this would have such a big impact came from watching Detroit play defense.
Larry Brown is brilliant. He has his guys push, pull, bump, slap just enough to put the pressure on the officials to
make a call, knowing they will rarely call touch fouls. All creating just enough time for a helpside defender
to come in, or for a defender to get through a pick, or for a shot blocker to get in the lane…Brilliant coaching.
Take advantage of the rules as enforced.
Now its time to change the rules.
2. The next change that I would propose is to always give the benefit of the doubt to the shooter. For
some reason the league has gotten away from calling touches on the elbow, wrist and body. It’s not an easy call to
make because this is one case where it happens so quickly, it’s hard to tell if the shooter got touched or if it
impacted the shot.
Officials often watch the flight of the ball to make a determination if there was contact. That works for
significant contact, but it doesn’t work for just a little touch to the arm or wrist or a push from the hand to the
stomach of side.
My proposal would be to always give the shooter the benefit of the doubt. Shaq shoots his jump hook and
gets hit on the elbow, it’s a foul. Rip Hamilton gets nicked on the side by a defender trying to catch up, give Rip
the benefit of the doubt. Prince goes up to defend Kobe, and the refs aren’t sure if there was enough contact to
affect the shot, doesn’t matter, call the foul. Not calling the foul gives the defender the advantage.I say
give the advantage to the offensives player.
It’s time we realize that we are making it far more difficult on the offensive player and creating a distinct
advantage for the defense. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Both sides of the ball are supposed to have equal
opportunity to do their job. The league is so talented, if we make it fair for both, scoring will improve
This is the part where the rest of the fools rush in and tell me what they think about the Mavs and our defense
and that’s why I’m writing this. This isn’t about that. Believe it or not, I never try to give the Mavs an
advantage. I plan on owning the team a long, long time. The players and style of play will come and go over the next
25 and more years. Trying to fit the league to the team I have in any given year is stupid and short sited.
I want to make the game a better entertainment product for our customers. If I have to suffer the fools who have
nothing better to do, so be it. I suggest they read a favorite book of mine, The Innovators Dillema.
Track and Field used to be the number 1 sport in America. So did Boxing. There are tons of examples of
entertainment products that took for granted that they would always be in demand and never adjusted to their
customers. I don’t want the NBA to be one more example in a textbook or business class 25 years from now.