The NBA will implement for next season any overwhelming recommendations made by a 16-member committee charged with finding ways to improve the league's quality of play, NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said today.
Stern also reiterated the desire of the league and its players association to set some sort of age limit for players to enter the NBA. Stern said 20 might be the preferred age but that will have to be discussed with the union.
What the NBA calls its Special Committee -- a panel made up of coaches, team executives, former and current players, broadcast analysts and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski -- will convene here Tuesday to discuss the league's sagging offense, physical defense, officiating and rules changes.
"We are hopeful that they will come up with some serious recommendations," Granik said of the committee. "The first of which we will look at is the way the games are being officiated and how the game is called and, particularly, whether the players become too physical or not."
Specifically, hand and forearm checking by defenders could be eliminated so offensive players would be able to roam without much resistance.
"We are talking about [expanding] the dimensions of the lane," Granik said. "The 24-second clock, bringing the ball up the court in 10 seconds . . . things like that."
As for the age limit issue, the NBA, the players association and the NCAA have had preliminary discussions on the matter but have not come up with any sound solutions, especially legally, Stern said. The NCAA put the issue to a subcommittee, which appointed a subcommittee, which appointed a task force, Granik said.
Stern suggested that players who won't or can't play college basketball and would be too young to play in the NBA could be funneled into a minor league, possibly the Continental Basketball Association, linked to the NBA and its players association.
Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, said he is willing to continue talks on the issue but that the NBA may be getting ahead of itself.
"We've never had any discussions about any specific age that would serve as a bar for somebody coming into the league," Hunter said. "What we did agree, with the collective bargaining agreement, is that we would work out something with the NCAA where we would adopt some provisions that would discourage guys from coming in early.
"It's something that we're willing to consider and talk about but we've never reached an accord. . . . As a union we have to represent not only the guys that are here but the guys coming into the league."
Wizards to Look at Bender
The Wizards are planning to work out Jonathan Bender, a 6-foot-11 forward who declared for the NBA draft directly out of Picayune (Miss.) High School. Washington, which has the No. 7 and No. 35 picks, has watched Bender, 18, on tape and wants to put him through drills. Washington also plans to work out Miami (Ohio) forward Wally Szczerbiak, UNLV forward Shawn Marion, Duke forward Corey Maggette and Connecticut guard-forward Richard Hamilton. . . .
It is believed new Wizards coach Gar Heard's three-year contract will pay him a base salary near $1 million annually. Incentives, such as playoff appearances, could more than double his yearly take, a source said. It is unknown if Heard has a clause that adds additional years to his deal.
The NBA's Special Committee
Members of the committee, which will meet today to discuss ways to improve the level of play in the league:
Turner Sports television analyst
Phoenix Suns president
NBC Sports television analyst
Indiana Pacers forward
Cleveland Cavaliers chairman
Denver Nuggets vice president basketball operations
Philadelphia 76ers general manager
Duke University basketball coach
Minnesota Timberwolves vice president basketball operations
Miami Heat coach/president
Boston Celtics coach/president
Atlanta Hawks guard
NBC Sports television analyst
Houston Rockets coach
Indiana Pacers president
Atlanta Hawks coach