Never one to sit on his laurels, NBA Commissioner David Stern is always willing to react to any problems he sees in the game of basketball and change the NBA rules. When Charles Barkley was dominating the game in the early 1990s, he changed the rules to only allow a player to dribble with his back to the basket for a three-count, eliminating Barkley’s favorite move. When, a few years later, Shaquille O’Neal dominated any single player sent to defend him, Stern changed the basketball player rules to effectively allow a zone defense. This helped other teams to defend him with multiple players before he even touched the ball. This also freed up other players to score and the game changed from a slow, grind-it-out game back into a high-scoring, fan friendly event.
Recently, the league found itself with egg on its face and it was time to vote for NBA new rules to avoid this situation again. The game of basketball is and has always been five players on either side. In a game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Boston Celtics on December 30th, 2008, the Trailblazers scored with six men on the court. Though it was discovered and the Blazers were assessed a technical, the violation was discovered after the basket and so the two points had to stand. Since the NBA had no mechanism for going backwards to waive off an ill-gotten basket, an NBA rules change was needed. Essentially, this had given the violating team two points with a technical cost of one point – an advantage for breaking the rules.
The NBA new rules pulled a page from the NFL’s foul calling protocol: the other team always has a chance to accept the foul or let the play stand. At their March 2009 meeting, the NBA Board of Governors acted swiftly to effect an NBA rules change that offered a solution to the Portland loophole: when there is a “too many players on the court” violation, the non-offending team has two choices: 1) accept the play and any court action that occurred, including any game clock use; or 2) they can choose to nullify the game action, take a technical free throw and return the ball to its pre-offense place with no ticks off of the game clock. Obviously, the NBA rules now allow the opposing coach can let the play stand if it benefits his team or wipe out the play, take a technical free throw and start the play over. The violation of “too many men on the court” is a rare in-game violation but this was an important change in case it ever occurs in a game of any consequence.
For the Blazers and Celtics, the NBA rules change probably would not have affected the outcome of the game. The Blazers ended up winning the game by five points and both teams went on to the playoffs in the respective conferences. What this decision points out is that the NBA is constantly adopting new rules in order to stay relevant and make the games run smoothly.
One thing is for sure, basketball is a game that is always in transition. As a company that produces electronic basketball scoreboards, we are dedicated to staying up on the latest basketball news. Stay tuned for more NBA rules news.