Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| June 17, 2007
If Tom Newell is right, fans got a look at the future of the NBA yesterday at Hec Edmuson Pavilion on the UW campus.
Under the guidance of the former Sonics assistant coach, two teams of former college players, mostly with Seattle ties, played a game of basketball. That wasn't unusual. The rules were, most noticeably because both baskets were raised an additional foot off the floor to 11 feet. In addition, the three-point line did not kick in until the fourth quarter, and dunks were strictly banned - not that they would have been common with the 11-foot hoop.
To Jim Harrick, who coached the victorious Gold Team to a 90-60 blowout win over Yakama Sun Kings Coach Paul Woolpert's Black Team, the results were what Newell and company were hoping for: A purer brand of basketball that emphasized team play over one-on-one action.
"I think the game was played the way the game is supposed to be played," said Harrick, who coached UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship in Seattle and now is coaching in the NBA Development League. "I liked the way my team played today."
For the most part, that the basket had been raised would not have been obvious to an onlooker unfamiliar with the purpose of the exposition (so called by Newell instead of an exhibition because his intent was to prove a point about the game). Players, who Newell estimated had 8-10 hours of practice working with the 11-foot hoops, were for the most part able to adapt to the height. There were more misses short of the basket than usual - especially once fatigue began to become a factor - but few airballs.
"I really was impressed with the overall success adapting and adjusting," said Newell.
"I don't think with a higher rim the game changed that much," added Harrick.
Besides the obvious absence of the dunk, a few other major changes were quickly apparent. Turnaround and fadeaway jumpers, difficult enough at 10 feet, became almost impossible with the extra height making it very difficult to create the necessary arc. Old-fashioned three-point plays were also limited by the inability to get the ball up to the hoop through contact.
The caveat to any observation was that the game was not played with NBA talent that would be most affected by a change. League rules prohibit NBA players from participating in charity events prior to July 1, limiting the pool of available players to those competing in minor leagues or overseas along with former NCAA players. The most recognizable names included former UW walk-ons Sterling Brown and Brandon Burmeister and former Oregon big men Jay Anderson and Adam Zahn.
Newell and his Web site, FamilySportsLifeToday.com, titled the exposition "For the Love of the Game," and that's what it was for the players.
"All they got was a pair of sneakers out of the deal - and a Ram gift certificate," said Newell.
The ultimate reward could be something intangible - the opportunity to make history, if anything comes of the 11-foot experience. The NBA will receive video and data from the game, and organizers also used handheld interactive remotes to ask the fans in attendance questions about the game and their opinions about what changes, if any, would benefit the game.
"I think this will open the eyes of the NBA to the point where they may experiment," said Harrick.
"This will happen again," concluded a confident Newell. "I will predict that."