HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The NBA preseason is more than just a time for teams and players to work out the kinks and fine tune their operations in advance of the new season.
It also serves as a real-time laboratory for the league’s officials, giving them an opportunity to execute whatever changes have been implemented, zero in on the modifications being made to existing rules and to get in the habit of showcasing the new rules for that season.
That’s right, it’s point-of-emphasis time for the 2013-14 season, and everyone — from the rules and competition committee, to the teams, to the players and officials — have all been schooled on the dos and don’ts, courtesy of a step-by-step explanation from members of the NBA’s referee operations staff (as seen here).
There are five major points of emphasis this season:
- Illegal screens
- Contact on jump shots
- Discontinued dribble
- Delay of game after a made basket
All will require serious attention from both the players and game officials, who will need to adjust to the new interpretations.
The rule book is clear on what is and is not allowed in each of these instances. That makes it all about the interpretation on the part of the players and officials, per Joe Borgia, the NBA’s Vice President of Referee Operations.
“We’ve made it clear to the players and the officials that this is for both of you,” Borgia said, “We need you to get better at (knowing the rules) and the officials to get better at making the right call when they see you are doing something and doing it wrong. The players will change. They have proven it over and over, a great example is the respect for the game rule that went in place a few years back. We had the NBA Finals last year and didn’t have a technical foul. I don’t know when that’s happened before, or if it has.”
That doesn’t mean it won’t take some getting used to, specifically for players used to setting screens a certain way and not being called for the violation of the new interpretation of the rule. The same is true for players who have made a habit of messing with the ball after a made basket. That said, the referee operations staff is implementing changes based largely on the feedback they received from the teams, which is part of a “smorgasbord” of information Borgia said is used to refine the game on a continual basis.
But the delay of game rule could be the most noticeable change of all, particularly for fans. Messing with the ball in any way after a made basket is supposed to result in a whistle being blown. And despite some chatter that the new interpretation has something to do with some calculated desire to speed up the games, Borgia insisted that is not the case.
“I’ve heard some of the announcers during the preseason saying we’re doing this to speed the game up and that’s just not true,” Borgia said. “We’re doing it because the new offensive team is being deprived of the opportunity to inbound the ball. [The new interpretation] might pick up the pace a little bit, but it has nothing to with making games go faster. It’s simple, don’t mess with the ball after a successful basket.
“And it’s like I said, our players are very smart. They will adjust to these new interpretations. And they will adjust quickly. Officials have to adjust as well. And they will.”