A key sequence in the Cavaliers’ narrow win over the Mavericks last night:
1. Deron Williams drove to the basket in overtime
2. Williams released a shot
3. LeBron James slapped the backboard
4. The backboard and rim appeared to vibrate
5. The ball hit the rim and bounced off
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban didn’t seem pleased:
I found nothing in the NBA rulebook that explicitly outlaws what LeBron did. One rule comes close:
RULE NO. 11—BASKET INTERFERENCE—GOALTENDING
Section I—A Player Shall Not:
h. Vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through.
However, that didn’t apply because LeBron didn’t vibrate the basket when the ball was touching the ring or passing through. He did it before the ball reached the rim.
The league’s case book provides further guidance:
177. Player A1 attempts a field goal that bounces off the basket ring and continues in play. Either immediately before or as the ball hits the basket ring, Player B1 makes contact with the net. Is this a goal tending violation?
No. The mere fact that Player B1 touches or pulls the net is not in itself a goaltending violation. The contact must be such that it is the primary cause for the field goal attempt being missed. As an added clarification to this ruling, the same applies to the slapping of the backboard.
RULE 11 – SECTION I – h
That seemingly would apply to the situation last night. So, it’s the officials’ judgment whether the moving rim was the “primary cause” for the miss.
And who knows?
That’s a ridiculously difficult call to make. Would Williams’ shot have bounced differently off the rim if the rim were still? No idea. Even if it were clear that the ball would’ve bounced differently off a still rim, was it the “primary” reason for the miss? Or was the primary reason Williams failing to swish the shot? It’s a practically impossible call for referees to make.
So, I support Cuban on a rule change. If a defensive player hits the backboard or rim hard enough to cause the rim to move once the offensive player has begun his shooting motion, that should be a goaltend. Officials shouldn’t have to determine what would have happened otherwise.
But I think Cuban’s plan for Dallas to exploit the current rule would backfire on him. If the Mavericks repeatedly slap the backboard as opponents shoot layups, officials will deem it the primary reason for the miss and call goaltending – fair or not.
The rule is bad, but nobody wants to tolerate that nonsense.