Archive for the 'NBA rule changes' Category

You’ve got something on your face

So the NBA under David Stern is trying to remake its public image, trying to cut down on the thuggishruggishbone perception of the NBA, blah blah blah nothing new there. Some teams (or some coaches, rather) seem to be taking Stern’s directives a bit more seriously than others. Scott Skiles of the Chicago Bulls in particular. A little context first: Skiles is an excellent defensive coach, having coached the Bulls to the best team defense last year, and they’re certainly moving in a similar direction again this season. You would think that the Bulls’ biggest free-agent acquisition and four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace, would be all about Skiles’ style then. Funny what losing can do to a team.

Wallace has been a pretty unhappy camper with the Bulls and their 3-9 start (before last night’s victory over the, snicker, Knicks) and the rumors about Skiles and his starting center being at odds have already begun to circulate. So Wallace, never known for being all that reserved, took it upon himself to exercise some civil disobedience, streetball style. Skiles has this rule forbidding any player in a Bulls uni from wearing a headband. So when Wallace decided to openly defy Skiles’ said team ban one night after he played a season-low 20 minutes and recorded no points and no rebounds in a blowout loss to the 76ers, Wallace was pulled only 2 minutes and 2 seconds after tipoff. When Wallace removed the headband with about two and a half minutes left in the first quarter, Skiles promptly re-entered him into the game, and he played for nearly the rest of the half. When Wallace again slyly slipped the headband back on just before the start of the second half, Skiles again immediately benched him, with Skiles again reinserting him back into the lineup within a minute of the removal of the headband for a second time.

And this is where the Skiles-Stern connection comes in. See, David Stern last year decided to eliminate the brandishing of certain superfluous tights and other miscellaneous game equipment, but he has never issued any edicts against headbands. So maybe I’m reading too much into Skiles’ motives here, but how is one supposed to take such a ridiculous rule? Would Skiles have ever pushed for this kind of team rule, say, five years ago, before Stern took it upon himself to whiten up (excuse me, class up) the NBA? The Bulls have no bad reputation to shed like, say, the Portland Trailblazers, so that can’t be it. Some explanation, any explanation would be nice.

The Bulls’ starting point-guard, Kirk Hinrich, had this to say after the game: “We want to make sure everybody is on the same page. Hopefully we will be.” Listen, I’m all about team coordination. If a player on a team ever put on, say, their road jersey for a home game, well, that’s an NBA faux pas to say the least. If Ricky Davis ever decided to break out some yellow shoes to go along with the Wolves true blue-and-green, well let’s not even go there. But Wallace isn’t an idiot, and his red headband even matched the Bulls’ red-and-black home jerseys quite tastefully. Skiles contributed this valuable post-game input on whether he was worried about the growing rift between him and Wallace: “No, I don’t know why. I’m just not.” Something in me just doesn’t want to believe that crap.

Well here’s some commentary on the matter I can believe, the words spoken from Wallace himself: “Man, I don’t care about that. All I know is we got the win.” Wallace is a gamer, he made his point by wearing the headband AND his team still got the win. Of course, nobody knows now how any of this will play out. Maybe Ben Wallace will come out for the next game wearing, like, three headbands and some anklets, and a red-and-black protective facemask just for the hell of it (thank you very much, Rip Hamilton). Either way, I’m pretty certain the days of seeing Ben Wallace let it all hang out (as pictured below) are well over.

ben-wallace-pic.jpg

The NBA can be such a prude sometimes.

 

 

 

Things to Watch

Ya know, tonight’s going to be a good night. I can just feel it. It is some variety of holiday, after all, which means there will be lots of cute little kids walking around, all dudded up in their Kevin Federline or Kirstie Alley costumes. And of course, I won’t answer the door for a single one of them because I will choose to spend my time doing much more valuable things, such as watching five straight hours of actual, regular-season NBA games on this, the most hallowed and excellent First Night of the 2006-07 NBA Regular Season.

Lordie, let me tell you, it has been a looooong offseason, as every NBA offseason is a long one. For the most part, the Sports Gods That Be have created a really ingenious annual sports schedule. As we’ve already discussed, the NBA regular season is finally starting tonight. And after the NFL season ends in February, the larger sportsnation focuses entirely on the NBA—which is of course glorious and amazing, and how it should be year-round. But then in the spring, MLB starts back up again, which is all fine and good, and that carries us through the end of the NBA season and through the rest of the summer until the fall, when the NFL season resumes again. Pretty seamless, eh? Well, with the Minnesota Twins’ unexpected and amazingly tragic flameout in the first round of the playoffs, this has officially been the longest and most difficult sports month of the year. I mean, ESPN Classic just doesn’t play enough NBA games, and when they do, they seem to CONSISTENLY SKIP OVER THE TIMBERWOLVES’ 2004 PLAYOFFS RUN. Sorry, as you can see, it’s been a very long October.

With that in mind, there are going to be a couple of things that set this NBA season apart from any other. The NBA usually enacts some sort of small rule changes every season, but this year there’s really some provocative stuff going down. (I should clarify: these alterations allegedly aren’t so much a result of new “rules” as they are of new “emphases” of rules already in existence.) Nevertheless, these new emphases (heheh, feces) could have as much impact on the visual product of the game as last year’s drastic rule changes, the Age Cap and the Dress Code:

1. Zero tolerance on post-whistle foul complaining. Does this picture look familiar to you?

How about this one?

Or this one?

Well you’ll never see anything like them again. In a move that some peoples’ favorite NBA star has compared to a Fidel Castro, dictactor-like move, the NBA is no longer allowing excessive copmlaining from players after being whistled for a foul. David Stern justifies such an emphasis because he thinks this phenomenon is slowing the game down “by engaging in an enterprise that is not productive.” Thankfully, mercifully he adds: “at least in the perception of the fans.” FYI, Mr. Commissioner, googling for those Rasheed Wallace pics is the most productive thing I’ve done all day. I appreciate the altruistic notion, but such an emphasis in the rules seems to directly contrast the inherent appeal of the NBA game.

In case you haven’t noticed, athletes in other sports are often physically obscured by their equipment and elaborate padding or helmets. The NBA on the other hand leaves less to the imagination than any other sport. It is no coincidence then that fans can get closer to players at an NBA game than in any other pro sport. I’ve always thought the NBA’s ability to showcase a player’s individual personality while on the court was a distinct strength, and if putting up with some extra bitching and moaning is the price, so be it. Stern has targeted post-whistle complaining for years, coming up with new and unique ways to punish players for such complaining, which in the past included an elaborate points system and the threat of game suspensions. Now, if a player complains excessively after being whistled, they will be quickly hit with a technical or even a fine. The new ‘Sheed Wallace Rule (name given by Rasheed Wallace) will undoubtedly have a large impact on the immediate visual product of the NBA game.

2. Traveling crackdown. In the NBA, there’s this rule, maybe you’ve heard of it, called traveling. It stipulates that a “player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.” In the past, the official enforcement of traveling has been rather lax because allowing a player like, oh say, LeBron James an extra step or two can result in some pretty amazing shit. This new emphasis doesn’t necessarily stand opposed to the inherent strengths of the game of basketball like the ‘Sheed Wallace Rule, but if actually enforced it does oppose some tried and true concepts that the NBA has been following for years. Essentially it goes like this: some NBA players are very athletic, and capable of doing very athletic things. When NBA players do athletic things, people want to see it. To see these acts of athleticism, people have to watch the NBA. When people watch the NBA, the popularity of the NBA grows. My personal prediction: even if NBA refs actually start cracking down on traveling this season, in five years or so, once David Stern has deemed that the NBA has watered down its thug image enough, we’ll pretend like we never even knew of such an emphasis. The people just love them some dunking too much.