The NBA's Board of Governors is meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and a source with knowledge of the talks told ESPN.com the agenda includes votes on several rule changes, especially expanding the use of instant replay. If passed, the changes would be in effect for the next NBA season.
The board, comprised of one owner from each team, is slated to vote on three instant replay issues, and one proposal about inbounding the ball:
• Instant replay for all flagrant fouls:
The competition committee proposes to let referees review all flagrant fouls on video.
In May, Game 5 between the Indiana Pacers
and Miami Heat
was marred by a succession of violent fouls. First, the Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough
fouled the Heat's Dwyane Wade
hard. Less than a minute later Wade's teammate Udonis Haslem
evidently sought retribution with a blow to Hansbrough's head and upper body. Both were given the milder designation of "Flagrant 1" and thus referees did not review video of either play mid-game. Under the rules at the time, only the harsher "Flagrant 2" calls could be reviewed on video by referees. After the game, NBA officials reviewed video of all three calls, upgraded Hansbrough's call to a Flagrant 2, while issuing suspensions for Haslem and the Heat's Dexter Pittman
, who also committed a violent foul later in the same game.
The league long has sought to prevent escalations of violence, and in this a mid-game video review of Hansbrough's initial foul could have resulted in a Flagrant 2 call just after the play, which would have meant Hansbrough's automatic ejection and, therefore, no opportunity for Haslem to retaliate, and for the violence to escalate.
• Instant replay for late-game goaltending and restricted area:
Owners also will vote on two more new uses of instant replay, to review goaltending and to see if a player was standing in the restricted area under the basket. Both kinds of plays can be very difficult in real time.
In the first, referees are asked to use the naked eye to judge if a shot is on its way up or has yet to reach the backboard, and is therefore fair game to block -- or past that point and off-limits to shotblockers. In the second, referees must both watch a collision in the lane and know with certainty if the defensive player had both feet entirely outside the semi-circular "no charge" zone under the hoop.
Instant replay often gives fans in the arena and at home views referees don't have. If approved, replay for goaltending and restricted area calls only would be available in the final two minutes of games, or in overtime.
• Inbounding from the sideline or baseline:
The fourth and final proposed rule change slated for a vote is letting teams choose to inbound the ball from the baseline or the sideline after timeouts. Previously, teams would have lost that choice by, for instance, inbounding and dribbling the ball before calling the timeout.
Also slated for discussion, but not scheduled for votes, are changes to how the league handles flopping, the draft lottery and potentially adopting international basket interference rules.
This may be the biggest issue with fans, but is not slated for a vote Thursday.
NBA commissioner David Stern discussed the league's ideas on flopping after a June competition committee meeting in Miami: "One of the things we're looking at is a postgame analysis of flopping," he explained. "We could see something like (the current points system for technicals) ... If you continue to do this you have to suffer some consequences. What exactly that should be, and the progression is, is to be decided. We just want to put a stake in the ground and say this is not something we want to be a part of our game -- without coming down with a sledgehammer but to do it in a minimalist way to begin stamping it out."
Under the current points system for technicals, fines and suspensions mount as the offenses continue.
• Draft Lottery:
The draft lottery has long been much-debated, with some saying it does too much to reward the league's worst teams and others saying it doesn't do enough.
The league instituted the lottery after complaints that teams were losing in order to get good picks, and has since tweaked the system in response to complaints that the weights favored certain kinds of teams. Further changes have been much-discussed, but are not likely to be approved Thursday. Stern has been dismissive of suggestions that big changes are necessary.
• Basket interference:
The NBA's current basket interference rules prohibit touching the ball while it's "in the cylinder," an imaginary column above the rim. Under FIBA's international rules, there is no such prohibition, and Stern has long supported adopting FIBA's rule, which is in effect in the NBA's D-League, where it is said to create exciting plays at the rim without leading to higher injury rates as has been feared.
Rule changes approved now could result in new rules in effect for the 2012-13 NBA season. Items like flopping and the draft lottery, which are only under discussion, could also result in quick changes, even though there is not another Board of Governors' meeting scheduled soon -- the board can vote to approve rule changes without convening.