This one goes out by request. After a few hours of research (and lots of time spent frustratingly chasing dead ends) BallinEurope comments on FIBA’s first big official move of 2013 – the seemingly inevitable rule changes coming to international basketball representing further acquiescence in the shadow of the NBA.

The story
So here’s what’s known. Back in July, a group of 13 from all around the basketball and business worlds produced a list of proposals under the auspices of the Euroleague’s Basketball Rules Summit.

The summit’s chief goal was to tweak the game to make “the competitions cleaner, fairer and more exciting,” and while most prescribed changes were cosmetic (e.g. jump-ball rules, timeout changes), one radical idea then put forth would make the uniform standard court size based on NBA specifications.

In late November, the Euroleague Commercial Assets Assembly (CAA) met on the subject of certain proposed rule changes with regard to, well, the bottom line of top-level European basketball clubs. While the CAA typically addresses and assesses issues connected with ticket sales, broadcast rights, investment, corporate social responsibility, etc., the commission took it upon itself to discuss two wide-sweeping transformations: the recommendations from the summit and FIBA’s proposed reshaping of international tournaments.

After this meeting, the CAA agreed to send onto FIBA the rule-change proposals, including:

• A wider court in order to increase the spacing for offensive players.

• Reducing the technical foul penalty to one free throw and possession.

• Disqualifying any player charged with two technical fouls.

• Resetting the twenty-four second shot clock to fourteen seconds after an offensive rebound instead of twenty-four seconds.

• Replacing one sixty second timeout in each half with one twenty second timeout, limiting the number of timeouts to a maximum of two per team in the last two minutes of the fourth period.

• Re-introducing the jump ball for all alternating possession situations, with the team winning the opening jump ball getting possession to start the fourth period, the team losing the opening jump ball getting possession to start the second and third periods, using a jump ball to start every extra period.

(From this list, it is interesting to note that the only proposal that Euroleague officials felt required justification is that first, most radical, most NBA-esque proposal of the lot…)
Meanwhile, “members reviewed the new World Calendar Competition Formats that FIBA approved recently. While agreeing that having national teams play official games locally was a positive move, the assembly expressed disagreement with the timing of those games as they would interrupt the clubs’ competition calendar. They also voiced concern that the expanded national team calendar would not include all of the world’s best players and would not allow for athletes to rest.”

Proposals and concerns are now in the hands of the FIBA Technical Commission which, according to the Euroleague, is slated to meet in January.

Remember those dead ends BiE mentioned? The Technical Commission are they. On the FIBA website, the current makeup of this 13-person group may be found; not much telling information can be found, though it might be noted that just four of the members are not representing North America or Europe.

Other than this list of information? Well, BiE turned up depressingly little on the FIBA Technical Commission or the January 2013 meeting. FIBA offices have been closed since December 19, though reportedly are open on January 3, so BiE will have to try that avenue tomorrow (stay tuned).

Impressions, effects
On the face of the it, the proposed increase in court size is hardly a massive change. In switching from 28 x 15 meters to 28.65 x 15.24 meters, the Euroleague’s effort to “increase the spacing for offensive players” will result in about 3.8% more room (about 8.25 square meters in the half-court).

For comparison’s sake, conformity to the NBA’s game clock would represent a 20% increase in game time. And if the 3.8% greater space is instantly turned into points, the difference is about one three-pointer per team per game: In the last three completed Euroleague seasons, the average team scored 75.4, 74.25 and 74.6 points per game, respectively.

But Euroleague (and most likely FIBA) is hoping for more than a direct translation of time-to-points with this move. What’s strange on this level is that any increase in floor space most directly addresses a strategy very few Euroleague teams employ, i.e. those game plans depend on clogging and/or dominating the middle with at least two big bodies. A wider court would immediately affect the Nenad Krstices and Stephane Lasmes of Europe, denying opportunities to draw fouls inside while also requiring defensive positioning a few feet further away from the hoop. And a defensive glass-first Pete Mickael types might rapidly (and perhaps unfairly) lose some perceived value on the open market.

In general, though, scoring will increase in most leagues as the already much more wide-open game played on The Continent expands further. As soon as the new court dimensions are installed internationally, the Euroleague’s urge for “more exciting” basketball (term in quotes because we all know that translates as “higher-scoring”) is certain to be satisfied. Still, if this is the solution publicly proffered for the non-issue of potentially dominant CSKA Moscow or Maccabi Tel Aviv frontcourts Euroleague types, they’re kinda killing a mosquito with a bazooka here. What’s next? The defensive three-seconds rule?

The message
“Ez van” is an oft-used expression in Hungarian. Literally translated as “There is this” or even “This exists,” the best English-language equivalent is perhaps “That’s the way it is,” though this translation lacks the gravity and resignation of the Magyar version.

It is this “ez van” feeling that BiE gets from the Euroleague and FIBA’s recent ideas. While it can be saliently argued that homogenization of rules is positive – even necessary – in the ever-increasingly international game, the reality is that the NBA and its promises of related multi-million dollar/euro deals are international basketball’s unilateral power and primary driving force. The FIBA/NBA relationship is threatening to become tantamount to that between the United Nations and USA in which the former acts as a fair international arbiter while the check-writing latter is the only truly calling the shots (so to speak). The relationship also serves to remind us in crystal-clear fashion of who the 1% in international basketball really is.

What’s unfortunate for European basketball in all this is FIBA’s apparent presumption that decisions made on their level will be ramrodded through after approval (tacit or otherwise) from the NBA offices. Going into the Technical Commission meeting, the Euroleague appears in line with most changes FIBA is set to implement: What leverage will The Continent have in overturning the incoming reworked plan for international tournament play?

BallinEurope despairs that there is little hope for autonomy in international basketball; not with that NBA spectre looming.

Ez van.

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