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Article:The Great Basketball Debates (Part 5) - Q

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To wrap up our week of basketball debates, I'm going to drive-thru some of the dangling questions and controversies of the game. Without further ado, let's hoop it up:

Rules Questions

Change the lane to the international trapezoid?

Yes and no. The international lane, for those who don't know, has the exact same free throw line but juts out to move the post blocks away from the basket. The advantage of this lane is that it moves the post players away from the basket to open up cutting and driving lanes. It also discourages back-to-the-basket basketball because it is difficult to post up so far from the rim. I love this because cutting and driving basketball is exciting while post-up basketball tends to be slow and dull.

I hate it for one reason - it looks stupid. Maybe I could get used to it, but it is not as aesthetically pleasing to me as the current version.

Move back the 3-point line?

Yes. The NCAA will do this next year and it is long overdue. Trust me on this - scoring will increase once the line is pushed back. The NBA learned this about ten years ago when it moved the line closer to the basket. It led to poor shooters attempting the shot and less room for the offense to work. Next year, the college game will see an increase in scoring because only good shooters will try the deeper 3's instead of everyone doing it. It will also force the defense to move out away from the basket another foot which means more room for driving, cutting and getting open. That means more scoring and more excitement. This is a great idea.

Increase fouls allowed before disqualification?

Yes. I actually like Jeff Van Gundy's idea of not disqualifying anyone (no other sport does it), but that seems unlikely to happen. The college and high school games should at least go to six fouls before disqualification. We see it far too often - great games ruined by foul trouble. Remember the Roy Hibbert vs. Greg Oden match-up from last year? Both guys were forced to sit with foul trouble.

If one more foul was allowed, the best players would be on the floor more often. It would also allow referees to properly call the game as there would be less fury about someone picking up a foul.

There is no way that it would lead to more fouling. Why would it? Fouling loses you basketball games, it does not win them. I just don't know what the argument against doing this would be.

Enforce the traveling/palming/carrying rules more closely?

No. I'm a purist in many ways, but I like the game to have some flow instead of being a whistle-a-thon. As a high school coach, I see Rule Happy Referees all the time. They care more about enforcing some stupid rule than simply officiating the game. The NBA does it right - let the game flow. Phil Jackson wrote about the "spirit of the rule" that so many referees fail to understand. Unless the violation gives the player an advantage, let it slide.

Flopping - a technical foul?

Yes! The flopping must stop. It ruins the game. If technical fouls can be issued for illegal defense (in the NBA) or leaving the coach's box, they can be assessed for pretending to get fouled. If a player is in position and run over, it is a foul. If a player falls before contact is even made, it is a technical foul.

Here is the easiest way to justify this: it is dangerous. With offensive players off their feet and concentrating on scoring the basketball, there is something dangerous and dirty about a defender sliding underneath to draw a charge. The offensive player is unprotected and comes crashing to the floor because of this defensive action. Before someone else gets hurt this way, change the rules to eliminate it.

Free Throw Assignments - old way or new way?

This year, the college men have been pushed up the block one spot. The idea was to eliminated the pushing under the boards on free throws.

It has failed. Instead of the inside defensive man pushing backwards, the offensive player is now pushing harder to get closer to the goal. I wish the NCAA would return to the old way unless it wants to change the rule to not allow anyone into the lane until the ball hits the rim. I don't like that rule much either, but it makes more sense to put the defender on the second block in that situation because that is where most free throw rebounds fall.

Strategy Questions

Foul Trouble - Sit Them or Play Them?

Tough one. On the one hand, you want to make sure you have your best players down the stretch to win the game. On the other hand, you might not be in a position to win if you are not playing your best players. Referees will sometimes decide a player is fouling all the time and quickly whistle him, but other times referees seem to realize that someone is in danger of fouling out and give him some slack.

I usually sit guys with foul trouble so I have everyone at the end of the game. It also depends on the player - is he smart enough to avoid a dumb foul or is he likely to clobber someone without realizing he will be disqualified? You must know your personnel, but I usually play it safe here.

End of Game - Call timeout or Play On?

You are up one point with 10 seconds left. Your defense breaks down and now you trail by one. QUICK! Do you call a timeout or have your guys attack right away?

I like to attack. You must have your team prepared to do so or they are likely to be so deflated by losing the lead that they will not know what to do (remember how Syracuse let four seconds run off the clock after Keith Smart's game-winner?). If you are prepared to do it, you can catch the opposing defense in transition or even patting itself on the back to get a good look. Calling a timeout means the defense will be set and prepared to take away your best option.

This strategy does not apply to the NBA because you can move the ball to halfcourt with a timeout. It makes no sense to waste clock dribbling it up.

End of Game - Set play or isolation?

Isolation. I know it is irritating to watch a team rely on a one-on-one situation to win a game at the end, but there is a reason it happens so often. First, you want your best player to take the shot. If you can put the ball into his hands, you do it. If the game is tied, you want to make sure you don't give the ball back to the other team (either you win or you go to overtime), so timing a set play is not ideal. Finally, a foul is most likely to be called on the ball than away from it, so the chance of getting to the line is best when the ball is isolated in one spot. A set play that involves screening and cutting can be blown up by physical defense, which is usually allowed at the end of the game, but referees will usually not allow a dribbler to be bullied even in this situation.

Opponent is on a run - timeout or play through it?

Play through it. John Wooden and Phil Jackson advocate letting their teams play through these runs while most other coaches are willing to burn a timeout to fix things or just stop the momentum. While I have used momentum timeouts, I would rather play through the spurt and save them. Timeouts are important, especially in high school when the clock does not stop on made baskets. In the NBA, timeouts allow the ball to be moved to halfcourt at the end of the game. They are highly underrated. If your team knows you are not going to bail them out with a momentum timeout, they will learn to play through the adversity.

On a meaningless side note, I have fond memories of calling these momentum timeouts as a 4th grader when I played little league basketball. Even as an 9-year old swingman, I understood when my team needed to collect itself and fix a few things defensively. You can imagine the look on my coach's face when I decided he needed to take a timeout.

Rebounding - block out or go get the ball?

Block out. I lost this debate at my previous school with my head coach. We did not work on blocking out at all, but instead focused on going up to get the ball. I hated it. I think there is time to find a man to seal out before going to get the ball. If I have a seven footer on my team, I might let him slide on boxing out because it is not as necessary. Otherwise, put your butt on somebody.

With that, we wrap up our week-long basketball debates. Let the discussions begin...

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