CITY OF INDUSTRY, CALIF., SEPT. 20 -- The National Basketball Association ended its annual league meetings today with hardly any action and not much gossip.
"What can I say? I'll make something up for you if you'd like, but things are just pretty good," said Commissioner David Stern.
The Competition Committee did announce the results of its weekend discussions. The most substantial -- in fact the only -- rule change involves isolation offenses.
There has been a growing propensity among coaches to move three men above the top of the key, thus clearing the way for two-man games or individual forays like those of Chicago's Michael Jordan. According to Rod Thorn, the league's vice president in charge of operations, those isolation tactics were "getting away from what the game is about."
So, beginning this season, a referee can call what will be known as an "illegal offense" and award the opposing team the ball to inbound.
That's not to say that teams will be forced to work strictly within the traditional five-on-five framework. The new rule only bans players massing above the top of the key, leaving squads free to send their men to move, say, over to the sidelines. The NBA didn't address that possibility because, according to Thorn, such offensive sets would still leave defensive players in a better position to join the action.
The Competition Committee also voted to recommend to the NBA Board of Governors that the mandatory fine for a flagrant foul committed during play be raised from $10,000 to $25,000. The group also decided to ask the Continental Basketball Association, often regarded as a testing ground for the league, to consider moving the three-point field goal line to 22 feet away from the basket. Currently, the line is 23 feet 9 inches out.
According to Thorn, another new topic was the idea of lengthening the court by 10 feet. The theory is that such a move would encourage teams to play more of a transition game, perhaps eliminating some of the emphasis on the big, dominating center. Although the idea was discussed at length, said Thorn, it was decided such a move would be "logistically impossible."
If there was one overriding theme for these meetings, it was undoubtedly the uncertainty of many team officials, whether public relations directors, marketing representatives or even general managers, about the status of the negotiations with the NBA Players Association for a new collective bargaining agreement. Although the people who have the most impact -- the individual owners -- will not meet until Oct. 12 in Dallas, there was lots of talk on the issue.
"I've had a lot of general discussions but nothing that we could pick up a phone right now and say, 'Let's go with that one today,' " said New York Knicks General Manager Al Bianchi. "I think everyone feels the same way. They don't want to talk specifics until the new contract is signed and they know if the rules are going to be changed or not."