NBA commissioner David Stern wants the NBA to do away with goaltending as we know it, and adopt the international rule which would allow players to touch the ball as soon as it hits the rim. The competition committee has fought him on this issue, and it’s not one that’s likely to change anytime soon. But at the very least, the league is going to discuss adding goaltending calls — especially those made in game-deciding situations — to the list of reviewable plays.
Stern was in Phoenix on Tuesday to take in the game between the Suns and the Spurs, and met with the media for about 20 minutes just prior to tip-off. When asked if there were any plans to expand instant replay, he offered up his thoughts on the goaltending rule as it currently exists, and discussed the nuances of implementing any changes.
“Our competition committee has the final word on these matters, but I think there’s going to be a very robust discussion about goaltending … which, I’m not going to mention LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland game,” Stern said.
The game Stern spoke of involved Aldridge cleanly blocking a late-game layup attempt from Kevin Durant, but the referees ruled it a goaltend, and that sent the game into overtime where the Blazers went on to lose. The league issued a statement admitting the call was wrong, but it was too little, too late for a struggling Blazers team that was deprived of a win in regulation.
“What we want to do (with instant replay) is get it right, without killing the flow of the game,” Stern said. “My proposal, which doesn’t get any respect at all, is to eliminate basket interference. It hits the rim, adopt the European rule — it’s in play. You know, ‘Is the hand just over the cylinder? Or not?’ Why task the referees with that? Just do it the European way. It’ll make free throw misses more fun too. But that’s not something that I have been successful on.”
This isn’t the first time Stern has mentioned his push to adopt the international rule on the matter. But he made it clear that his opinion is the minority one among those who make these decisions, so it seems he just wants to ensure that the current rule — since it impacts points scored and could potentially decide games, as it did in Portland — gets interpreted correctly, with the benefit of a second look if the situation should warrant it.
But when is that, exactly? Stern said that there’s a growing sentiment to make these types of plays reviewable only in the last two minutes of a game. The problem there is, of course, the fact that doing so might send a conflicted message.
“It’s ironic with how many of our fans would be satisfied in doing more just in the last two minutes,” Stern said. “And that’s something that we sort of resisted, but we’re getting pulled along. Because it counts the same in the first two minutes as the last, and we counsel our officials that a foul’s a foul (no matter when it occurs). And sort of saying, ‘oh yes, but the last two minutes is different,’ is sort of an interesting route.
“But, it’s true. Our fans are saying the last two minutes should be treated differently. So we’re going to look at it, and see what’s going on.”
Stern talked about a system where coaches could throw a challenge flag similar to the way replay is handled in the NFL, but discounted it at the same time, pointing out that it places an unfair disadvantage on the team that just got the ball and is heading down the court in transition.
So that won’t be happening, and apparently, a complete change where the league does away with the current rule altogether won’t be happening, either. But goaltending seems to be an area that the league has focused on, and it will likely be a topic that finds its way into the instant replay system in the very near future.