The NBA and commissioner David Stern need to loosen up. There, I said it. The fact of the matter is, however, that this “uptightedness” with the rules has been going on for years. The game of basketball has slowly evolved over the years. From the implementation of the three-point line to the new replay rules, the game has become drastically different from its ancient roots in the ABA and early-NBA times. However, not all the changes have been good…or even remotely useful. This article is about five NBA rules that I think need to be either changed or removed completely.
1) In no particular order, the following rule has to be one of the strangest and possibly most useless rules in the game: the NBA has created a new uniform rule, prohibiting players from wearing upside down headbands  . Seriously? Has the NBA become so totalitarian that the league must now mandate how players wear their headbands? Sure, I can understand the need for tucking in your uniforms or the prohibition of body jewelry during a game, but I cannot fathom why the position of your headband can make a difference. Logistically, there isn’t one. The reason has to do with what David Stern has termed “proper respect for the game” (I am paraphrasing). Apparently, the upside down NBA logo is an insult to the league. This is one of those rules that’s just unnecessary. Let players do what they want with their headbands. Rajon Rondo always wore his upside down for reasons unbeknownst and has now stopped completely. This new rule doesn’t create respect for the game – it simply breeds extraneous conformity. Get rid of it.
2) The new rules dealing with technical fouls are a joke. When four technicals can be called within 16 seconds, and no physical confrontations were involved, something is wrong.  Referees can now give technicals for 1) players making aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court, 2) demonstrative disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands, or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled, 3) running directly at an official to complain about a call, 4) excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone, 5) technicals on players who use body language to question or demonstrate displeasure, 6) technicals for players who “take the long path to the official”, walking across the court to make their case  .
Translation: if you do anything that even resembles disagreeing with the refs, you’ll get at least one technical. The NBA tried this insanity back in 2006-2007, and it didn’t work. Why should this time be any different? On-court altercations are rare, and debacles like the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills hardly ever happen. Ron Johnson, the NBA’s Senior VP of ref operations, claims that it has to do with how players and the game look on television. Complain enough and you make everyone seem like a complainer. Great logic except that refs make mistakes AND not just once. Refs are biased. If Lebron runs into Paul Pierce, odds are the refs will call a blocking foul, even if it was an offensive foul (see the Celtics home opener vs. the Heat). Furthermore, players can get under a ref’s skin very quickly. Guys like “Big Baby” Glen Davis have been known for their complaining. Complain more than the refs like, and they’ll have it out for you. I’m not advocating the abolition of technicals – the world knows we need them. However, let humans be human. Basketball is an emotional game, and players need to be allowed to express that emotion. The NBA wants players to act like robots and instinctively suppress any problems they may have with a call or a play. The fans understand that the players all have “moments” of anger and whatnot. Punching the air or walking over to the ref won’t harm anybody. In the 1960s and 1970s, getting a foul was hard enough. Punching a player carried a $50 fine. Players didn’t whine about every call, and refs didn’t call every little thing. It worked. I daresay that the NBA was a lot tougher back in those days. Take a player from 2010 and put him on a 1960s team. I’d bet good money that the guy wouldn’t last a week in the league. Players have gotten softer and more cushioned knowing that the refs and the league will nitpick at every little thing. Yet it’s the game that suffers. When guys can get ejected in a matter of seconds having done nothing more than argue a call, both teams suffer, and so do the fans. If you came to see Kobe Bryant play, and he’s had a bad call, his ejection takes away a large portion of the experience for you. It’s just sad that the league wants players to simply agree with the refs. You get called for a charge, just take it and walk away. Easier said than done, especially since that hasn’t been the case in the past. Then there’s the whole game aspect of this rule. Easy technicals equate to easy artificial points. Why should a team benefit from a whiner on the other team? Sure, the rule may be impartial, but getting rid of it would be an even easier way to resolve the matter.
3) A player has to be one year removed from high school in order to play in the NBA  . Why? The first thing that comes to mind is so that they can spend at least some time in college before making it to the NBA. Knowing that you’ll have to play college ball means you’ll work harder in high school to get that year under your belt. It seems like a good rule. But realistically, it’s pretty pointless. One year of college does nothing for a player. No degree. No major. Not even enough time for a minor. I’m not saying that NBA players are stupid. Quite the contrary, it takes tremendous acumen to be a great basketball player. However, that one year period between high school and the draft doesn’t change anything. No magical maturity process occurs, and players do not suddenly find themselves completely changed. Granted, they’ll have an easier time adjusting from college to the NBA than from high school to the NBA; however, players did just that for years. If you get drafted, you’re already set. If not, college is the way to go. Kentucky’s coach John Calipari had some very interesting things to say about the rule back in April of this year, “I don’t agree with the rule now. I think that, one, kids should be able to go directly to the League if that’s what they choose to do. And if they go to college, they should stay two years or maybe three. The way it is right now it’s really hard”  . He brings up several good points. Talented high school players who only plan on spending one year in college knowing they’ll be drafted afterwards all want to win a title in that one year. Some players, like Carmelo Anthony, have delivered. But virtually every other player in that situation doesn’t get a chance to do so. They perform at a fantastic level and become fan favorites before permanently departing to the pros. If basketball is about the fans, such behavior certainly hurts the credibility of college basketball. Then again, being drafted is simply a career promotion; the players don’t just disappear, in fact, they are given the chance to excel. The question is what the concept behind the rule is. Does it have to do with player maturity or is it like a sieve to filter out some of the competition? After all, many players who want to transition from high school to the NBA can’t cut it, and college ball is a good way of seeing how a player can perform at a higher level. That’s why I agree with Coach Calipari that the NBA rule should either require players to spend at least two years in college or none at all. There are only three possibilities: 1) you’re talented enough to play in the NBA straight out of high school, 2) college basketball is where you belong, 3) you need some time in college to mature and develop your game before putting your name in the draft. If you’re not cut out for college or the NBA, then the draft will take care of that on its own. In case 1, you get drafted into the league. In case 2, stay in college. In case 3, spend at least two years improving and then use your draft eligibility. That makes a lot more sense to me than the current rule. After all, guys like Kobe and Lebron are some of the greatest players ever, and they never went to college. Carmelo did and he’s also an All-Star. Clearly, it’s not about how long you took to get to the league, but what you do once you get in.
4) This next one is inherently tied to my second point. Currently, technical fouls don’t count as personal fouls  . The only ways to get ejected from a game are to foul out with six personal fouls or to get two technicals (or just get a flagrant 2 foul for attempting to dismember a player). If technical fouls count as personal fouls, players are more likely to control themselves. Albeit, personal fouls generally involve in-play basketball activities, and technicals are oriented towards sportsmanship and conduct, I don’t see why those two should be kept separate. The problem people could have with changing this rule is that the NBA is already cracking down on conduct that would earn a technical foul and adding techicals to personal fouls for a total of six could mean some players would foul out by halftime. Then again, since two technical fouls alone would get you out of the game, players only have to worry about one technical before they know either the next technical or five personal fouls would end their playing time for that game. I think that would motivate players to be more professional and careful on the court than punishing them for arguing a call with the ref.
5) The last rule I’d like to bring up is so bizarre that it doesn’t even involve the players themselves. “New NBA rules require coaches to wear collared shirts during games”  . Seriously? Collared shirts for NBA coaches being a requirement is like requiring NBA players to wear their headbands the right side up. Oh wait, the NBA already did that too. It’s ludicrous for the league to act as the fashion police. It’s one thing to dictate uniformity to ensure fairness, but this is just preposterous. NBA coaches already mostly wear suits, the notable exception being Stan Van Gundy and his turtlenecks. So let’s make him wear a collared shirt and a suit. What’s the point? Nothing is gained by forcing coaches to dress identically. It doesn’t make the players more efficient, the refs more observant, the fans more interested, or advance the game in any legitimate way, meaningful or otherwise. It’s a joke, plain and simple. The league needs to be focused on player development and game management. Neither is accomplished when coaches are required to wear collared shirts. I understand David Stern’s issues with “proper respect to the game”, but the NBA is not equivalent to a gala hosted by the Queen of England at the Royal Palace. Fans can already wear whatever they want to a game. What’s next? A dress code for fans as well? Basketball is about skill, talent, and a good time. This rule is about absurdity at its finest.
There you have it. Five rules that I think need to be changed. Forget the upside-down headband nonsense. Change the conditions for issuing technical fouls. Rewrite the pre-draft eligibility requirements. Modify the foul situation. And last but not least, let coaches wear what they want as long as they dress professionally.