So a few years ago, Im watching the Pistons beat the Lakers in the Finals. I’m seeing Larry Brown’s Pistons fully take advantage of the rules. It was impossible to stay in front of Kobe. He could get anywhere he wanted on the court. The Pistons knew it as well. So every time he tried to get to the basket, they would body up and bump him. The officials did just as they were supposed to. Since Kobe had the advantage on the defender, they didn’t call a foul. However that little bump slowed Kobe down just enough that it gave Ben Wallace a split second more to on a pre rotation to the Paint, to be in a better position to defend the basket. Kobe still scored, but not quite as often as he may have otherwise.
At that point it dawned on me that the concept of playing the advantage in a one on one matchup had nothing to do with which TEAM gained the advantage. After all, its the team that scores the most points that wins. Detroit had a brilliant strategy and was playing it to perfection. After the finals, I sat down with the league and discussed with them the difference between player and team advantage. The discussion lead to changing the rules so that perimeter contact was called far more often.
The NBA eliminated all forms of hand-checking before the 2004-2005 season. The rule was intended to give offensive players more freedom, but has given offensive players an unfair advantage. It’s virtually impossible to keep perimeter players out of the paint.
Unfortunately for Cuban and the Mavs, the rule changes he helped initiate contributed to Dallas’ loss to the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals. Dwyane Wade shot an NBA Finals record 97 free throws. To his credit, Wade attacked the basket relentlessly, but there were times when Maverick defenders beat Wade to a spot on the floor, had their arms to their sides, and were whistled for blocking fouls when Wade initiated contact. It was ridiculous. The Mavericks attempted 48 free throws in Game’s 5 and 6. Wade attempted 46 freebies over the same span.
Cuban has done a lot for the NBA. But the hand-checking rule was better left unchanged.