Bowling Green, Ohio, Dec. 10 -- NBA Senior VP of Operations Stu Jackson has been at the helm as the NBA ushered in the era of instant replay this season as well as rules changes a season ago that allowed zone defenses for the first time in NBA history. Jackson talked to NBA News recently about how instant replay and zone defenses are impacting the NBA.
Q: Have the rules changes of two years ago, primarily allowing zone defenses, had the effect desired by the league?
Michael Finley's Mavs and Wang Zhizhi's Clippers employ free-flowing offenses and the occasional zone defense.|
Jackson: Without question the rules of two years ago have accomplished our objectives. Our objective in implementing the new rules was to help the game look better and flow better, to get more cutting, more passing, more overall player movement. The new rules have accomplished those objectives.
The rules of two years ago were not implemented to increase scoring. Last season, surprisingly, scoring stayed about the same and for most of the season was higher than the previous year. But that was not our intent. Our intent was to make the game look better and flow better and be a more pleasing game to watch. We have a game today that is much better than the game three years ago. We have minimized the number of isolation sets that teams use in the game, and we have much more passing and cutting and overall player movement.
Q: Some people see a team scoring 100 points as the benchmark for a good game. However, only a few teams in the NBA this season are scoring around 100 points per game.
Jackson: NBA teams collectively have not averaged 100 points per game overall in the regular season since 1994-95 (101.4 ppg for the 27 teams in the league). The reasons are many, but certainly include the fact that our teams have become much more sophisticated defensively. Their game preparation is more extensive than it has been in years and decades past. The athleticism of the players in that same time has gotten better, which has cut down the court. All of those factors have led to a decrease in scoring and not allowed teams to average 100 points with the consistency of teams in years past.
Q: Do you trace this evolution to the Chuck Daly-coached Detroit Pistons teams in the late 1980s that won championships with tough defense?
Jackson: I trace it back even further than that. Guys like Hubie Brown started to put more emphasis on [defense] during game day shootarounds and statistical analysis and film and video breakdown, analyzing team offenses and devising defensive schemes that combat those offenses. I think that was when we saw scoring start to become affected. At the same time that game preparation was getting better, our players were continuing to get more and more athletic. So it is a development that goes back 20 years.
Q: Do you foresee more rules changes being implemented in the short run that will impact the game?
Jackson: We are open to tweaking the rules, after we evaluate the rules after two seasons, at the end of this season. What I see on the horizon is some differences in the way teams attack defenses. That will evolve. You may see teams, in an effort to beat zone defenses, run the ball up the court more before defenses can set up. But I also anticipate an adjustment in the personnel decisions that many of our teams make and focus more on acquiring players that can both shoot the ball and make passing plays.
Q: Wonít coaches pretty much play any style they think will win with the type of talent that they have on their team? Wonít they tailor their gameplan to their roster, even if that means scoring fewer points?
Jackson: I feel that is true. That is the mark of a good coach, who can evaluate his roster and devise a system of play that he feels can be successful. But no matter which system a coach decides to employ, the rules of the game are going to be the constant. The more zone defenses or matchup defenses that teams see, it is going to place a higher premium on players that can make shots and make plays.
Q: I know itís still early, but can you talk about how the instant replay system has worked so far?
Jackson: Itís worked very well because it has accomplished the objectives we set out, and that was to assist the officials on quarter-ending and game-ending decisions. So we are very pleased.
Q: Can you give us the number of times instant replay has been used and how many of the original calls have been overturned?
Jackson: We have used it 101 times in 266 games (an average of one use every 2.63 games through games of December 4). Of those 101 times, there have been five situations where a decision has been overturned.
Q: What do you think that says about the quality of officiating in the league?
Jackson: Certainly it indicates that in an overwhelming number of cases, the referees are correct in what they call. For those situations where we have had to overturn a call, thatís a real positive, because it just means the system is working and we are getting the plays right to the benefit of the game, the teams and the officials.
Q: Have you had any instances where a team has called you to complain about the ultimate result of a play where instant replay was used?
Jackson: We have not gotten one call or dispute on an instant replay review.
Q: What has been the feedback from coaches and GMs that you have talked to?
Jackson: The response has been extremely positive. What I hear is that the teams like the fact that we are taking a narrow approach, using it only at the end of the quarters and at the end of the game. They like the systemís simplicity, they like the length of time it takes to make a decision, which is always been less than two minutes. And they really feel the LED (light emitting diode) lights have been an asset in conducting the review.
Q: Has there been any discussion about extending the use of replay to cover other game situations that might arise?
Jackson: There hasnít been as of yet. We will review the instant replay system at the end of the year to see if we want to expand the system or see if the system needs tweaking. But again I have to emphasize that one of the positive attributes of the system we use is that is has a narrow focus, and that is shots at the expiration of the clock at the end of the quarters or at the end of an overtime period.