HoopIdea: Ending the Beneficial Foul

ESPN's Truehoop has had a strong few weeks. They've been rolling out an excellent ad-hoc series based around rule improvements and other game enhancements to the game of basketball that could make things better for the players and the fans, titled HoopIdea. Today, Adam will share his own idea to make the game better: ending the beneficial foul. 

A series of good passes leaves a player wide open for a three. He catches the ball, rises, and hits the shot. But before that can happen, the refs blow the whistle, and the ref gives his team the ball out-of-bounds. You see, a reach-in foul on the floor a second earlier had stopped the play. It hadn't stop the passer, it hadn't stopped the play, but it was a foul nonetheless. Sometimes the fouled team gets an extra free throw, but usually this kind of foul ends with a side-out and nothing else.

Later, in the same game, a big man catches the ball near the rim. He goes up, only to be pummeled. The player sighs loudly going to the free throw line. After all, he hates shooting free throws. And as two shots clank off the rim, the opposing coach applauds his player, while the announcers swoon about how good a foul that was. The fouled team loses the game by two points, two points that they could've spared had their big man not been forced to shoot pressure free throws. Do you know any other sport where breaking the rules, committing a foul actually benefits a team? Where a foul is a strategic device rather than a mistake with grave consequences? I don't. I propose that basketball shouldn't be such a sport either. What's more, the changes couldn't be easier to make.

Let's sketch out the two major situations, and how I'd tweak the rules. Continue reading

Supplanting Jordan: a Reflection on All-Time Greatness

Someday, we'll have to acknowledge that Michael Jordan is not the Greatest of All Time.

Michael Jordan is in all likelihood the best player to have ever played in the NBA and the game of basketball as a whole. But there’s a subtle implication to the phrase “Greatest of All Time” that says much more. It says “greatest ever and forever and ever”, literally the time behind us and the time ahead of us. After all, it’s not like time takes a break every nanosecond to extend itself. "All Time" is the same in 1950 as it is in 2050. This might be a cute semantic argument ("Greatest So Far" and "Greatest, Past and Present" don't lend well to acronyms), except that in the case of Jordan, it belies a serious belief that most of us share. Let's examine. Continue reading

Take it from Hockey: Improving All-Star Weekend

AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz

Let’s face it, the All-Star game has never been particularly enjoyable. Hell, my dad has always thought of it as a solid representation of how he felt about basketball. And he would say so:

“3 and a half quarters of boring back and forth action, and sometimes an intense last 6 minutes,” he'd say, quickly adding that he enjoyed playing the sport. He just hated watching it. He loves hockey, but he's not a one-sport guy: he loves watching the NFL and CFL. As an extra dish to his beloved hockey, that is.

Let's talk about hockey. It’s not surprising that my dad, a guy who went through his 20s watching Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers in Edmonton, (while playing the sport whenever he had free time) had plenty of pretty good reasons to watch it. And yet, hockey - usually a relatively more exciting and unpredictable game - at one point managed to have an even less passionate All-Star Game than the NBA's. The whole experience of watching the NHL All-Star Game was tantamount to watching the lockout leagues — soulless, careless, pointless.

So, the NHL realized something that we'd all known pretty damn well — it’s all about the Weekend. On its face the All-Star Weekend is no great innovation: the NBA has its All-Star Weekend, with all the excitement that comes with jumping over Korean cars, Charles Barkley choosing Allen Iverson with the 1st pick in an All-time Fantasy Draft. And yet, in recent years, the NBA has lost the All-Star battle to the NHL. How did that happen? Continue reading

Respecting the League: Love's Botched Suspension

In a two part series, Adam and Aaron are going to examine two aspects of Kevin Love's 2-game suspension following the inglorious footwork he employed against Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola last Saturday. For today's half, we'll examine the hypocrisy of the NBA's incessant emphasis on "respect for the game" when a player mouths off to the refs that becomes curiously absent when the livelihood of a player comes to call.

When the NBA assesses technical fouls, how often does it cite "respect of the game?" Remember all of Dwight Howard's technicals last year? When asked to explain the one game suspension Dwight received for angrily chucking the ball at the refs, all we could hear echoing from the office of the Commissioner was “respect." Me, personally, I never really understood what agreeing with every call the refs make has to do with respecting the game. The refs are the authority, but even the best authority makes mistakes. The NBA's response to players trying to express their unhappiness in an emotionally charged moment is basically akin to the “Say what again!” scene in Pulp Fiction.

Nobody can forget the epic Sheed techs for virtually nothing, everyone's seen the infamous Duncan technicals, and we’ve all seen an aggravated Dwight have to leave the game early because he’s had it with the zebras. And I don’t think a single person among us knew what this all had to do with respect. And now the NBA has lost another part of it’s credibility, demonstrating how respect for another player has nothing to do with their particular definition of "respect." Personally? I'm a bit disgusted.

Continue reading

A Light Before Sunrise: the View from Poland

We'd like all our readers to give a warm welcome to the newest member of our writing staff, Adam Koscielak. You may know his work from his excellent work at Sun-N-Gun. He's an incredibly smart, witty fellow studying law across the pond in Poland. I thought I had things bad -- I went to college in a non-NBA city, and now work in a city two hours from DC and terribly far from every other NBA city of note. Adam, of course, has no sympathy for me -- he's in Poland, roughly 6000 miles away from the closest NBA city. For his introductory piece for the Gothic, we asked him to explain what it's like being a fan of a sport that's so far distant. He blew us away. Without further ado, Adam's excellent introduction.

5:00 AM — I’m prying my eyes open, trying to stay awake. This happens all the time. And if it doesn’t happen, it probably means I woke up a mere few hours earlier. There’s something inherently unnatural about sitting out in the dark, trying to keep quiet not to wake anyone around you up. And yet that’s what I do, night in and night out. I sit at my desk, a game is playing on my 24 inch screen, and ESPN’s Daily Dime Live is flying down on my laptop screen, along with a Twitter feed. An empty beer mug once filled with coffee sits on the table next to my desk. Does it stand or lie or sit? I never know: for all I care it could be flying right now.

The first quarter of the night’s late game is just coming to a close. Continue reading