SI Vault
July 26, 1999
NBA Rules Throw the Book at Them
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July 26, 1999


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Speaking of Baseball, 1999



Urine sample

la muestra de orina

Warning track

zona de seguridad

Catcher's mask


When is the party?

¿Cuándo es la fiesta?

I would like a beer

Quisiera una cenveza

Can you bring an order of french fries? Also, I would like baked trout

¿Nos puede traeruna orden despapas fritas? Y también quisiera una trucha horneada

My stomach hurts

Me duele elestdmago

Speaking of Baseball, 2000?

I would like to deposit $10 million

Quisiera hacer un deposito de $10 millones

Where is the nearest Porsche dealership?

¿Adónde me puedo comprarun Porsche por aquí?

I don't want to face Randy Johnson

No quiero enfrentar el Gran Unit

I want to meet Jennifer Lopez

Quisiera conocer a Jennifer Lopez

This guy Nomo, you can't understand a word he says

¿Nomo? No entiendo ni una palabra de lo qué dice

I am taking it one game at a time, trying to do my best for the team

Blah, blah blah blah, blah blah blah

NBA Rules
Throw the Book at Them

Some of the finest minds in the NBA took a meeting last month, hoping to spare us another year of atrocities like Mark Jackson's bop-bopping his butt into Charlie Ward's midsection as Jackson bangs his way to the basket, and for that we are grateful—though maybe not as grateful as Ward is. The league commissioned a 17-member panel, the Special Committee, featuring coaches Rick Pitino, Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkens, general managers Dan Issel and Kevin McHale, broadcasters Doug Collins and Isiah Thomas, and players Antonio Davis and Steve Smith. The panel's mission: Suggest ways to liven up the stagnant, low-scoring sleeping-pill substitute the average game has become.

Before we rewrite the rule book, the committee reasoned, let's get referees to enforce current rules. So the word went down to the refs: Call tighter games! It's already going on in summer leagues across the country, and fans will see the results next season.

First, referees must crack down on the misdemeanor assaults NBA defenses commit. When Reggie Miller driving the lane absorbs more punishment than Reggie White rushing the quarterback, it's time to blow the whistle. The bumping, shoving and grabbing that defenses often depend on, especially away from the ball, will disappear if officials stop letting it go uncalled.

Next, refs should try to stop hand checking on the perimeter, including the ubiquitous forearm in the back. Some players and coaches contend that restricting such contact could make the league's top scorers virtually un-guardable, but that won't happen if officials stop allowing scorers to take liberties with the ball. Defenders might be able to keep up with Allen Iverson's crossover move if he weren't allowed to cradle the ball like a newborn when he dribbles. Calling more palming and traveling violations will help compensate for tying defenders' hands a bit. As for players who can't defend by moving their feet instead of their hands, they'll lose their jobs to quicker guys—and the quicker the league gets, the better it gets.

We'll see a few ugly, whistle-filled games at first, but NBA players are some of the best athletes on earth. They'll adapt. When they do, some relatively minor tinkering with the rules will be all that's needed. Riley has suggested eliminating the three-point line to keep players from standing like statues around the arc, and Larry Brown wants the line moved closer if zone defenses are allowed, but both coaches are making things more complex than they need to be. Only one change is needed: Switch the shot clock from 24 seconds to 20. If offensive players are allowed to move without getting manhandled, 20 seconds is plenty. Quicker shots would lead to more possessions and higher scores. Teams might even dust off that relic of the '70s and '80s, the fast break.

The issue isn't points, it's pace. In a faster, more fluid game, low scores will disappear faster than a Popsicle in July.
Phil Taylor

Sanders vs. Detroit
The Lion Sulks Tonight

There'll be holiday cheers at the Silverdome on Christmas Day when the Broncos come calling on the Lions in Game 15 of the NFL season. That's when Detroit's Barry Sanders could well break Walter Payton's alltime rushing record. If he's smart.

Sanders is as widely admired as any NFL player. He's a hardworking, principled, humble man, and the league holds him up as an example of all that's right with pro football. But even his most ardent fans think Sanders is screwing up by screwing around with the Lions. He has cut off communication with the team, refusing to take calls from coach Bobby Ross. He skipped a mandatory spring minicamp, and there are strong indications that he wants out of Detroit. In May his father, William, ripped the Lions, saying, "Barry's sick of them, and he's sick of losing." Sanders's agent, Lamont Smith, says his client's returning to Detroit "won't be easy."

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