I go back and forth on the new rule that puts a muzzle on players who feel they’ve been shortchanged by the refs. On one hand: They really should shuddup and play. On the other: It’s hard to bite your lip in a tense, emotional moment. Somewhere, there’s a compromise that should satisfy everyone.
But that’s really not the point here. I wonder if eventually, say in about a month or two, this new “rule” will suddenly grow old and quickly vaporize. You know, like the NBA’s supposed crackdown on palming violations 10 years ago. Whatever happened to that rule?
Back in the Allen Iverson days, the league became alarmed with the evolution of the dribble. You can blame it on Tim Hardaway, the unofficial inventor of the crossover. Hardaway’s sleight-of-hand was perfectly legal, if you saw it in slo-mo, because he was that good at pulling it off. But it spawned millions of poor imitators who lifted the ball underneath while changing directions. That’s a palm, or a carry, as they called it back in the day.
It got so bad that today, they actually teach “palming” (ahem, crossover) to little kids. Yes, pretty soon, an entire generation began lifting the ball, pulling the ball, dragging the ball, everything but legally dribbling the ball. And the high schools and colleges looked the other way. Eventually, so did the NBA, for a while.
When Iverson violated every dribble rule in the book to gain an unfair advantage on his defender, the NBA decided to crack down. The “Iverson Rule” was put to test during the preseason and, just like now, players protested. The rule was enforced for roughly two months. Then, it was back to business as usual. Only once in a while, when a palm is just too obvious to ignore, does the whistle blow. Never with two minutes left in a tight game, however.
Basically, the players took ownership of the dribble and rewrote the rule book, and the NBA essentially allowed it to happen. Jamal Crawford, the Sixth Man of the Year, owes his career to palming. So does Dwyane Wade and countless others. And it’s even gotten worse: Now players are lifting the ball for a split second, and just as the defender thinks the player is about to stop dribbling, that player continues his dribble, clearly gaining an advantage because the defender is now off-balance. Phil Jackson calls it the “discontinue dribble” and it is rarely enforced.
The league really needs to uphold the basic rules Dr. James Naismith created. Send a message to teenagers that palming will not be allowed on the highest level. And while you’re at it, clean up traveling, too (the two-steps-and-bunny-hop is especially insulting to the memory of Dr. James). And treat these obvious violations the same, whether the game is a minute old or there’s a minute left. The game will survive, because players will simply adjust, if they want to get paid.
And just think: calling players for palming will really get them steamed at the refs.