As FIFA World Cup looms, here’s what the NBA could learn from soccer

Four years is a long time to wait for your favorite sports team to prove the world that they are the best of the best. That’s what happens to fans of the world’s most popular sport that is named soccer here but known throughout the rest of Earth as football (or futbol). Imagine if the World Series truly did involve the "world" and not in a hokey World Baseball Classic that only a fraction of countries have any interest in participating. While certainly a fun event, the Olympics don’t carry the same weight either but does serve as an example of how passionate sports fans can be when they’re banding together to root for their country instead of a club. But when soccer is involved the rivalries between countries can reach epic proportions, as if Red Sox Nation really did have several millions of citizens pulling for them to defeat the hated Yankees. Try to envision that only now the NBA Finals are resuming after four years. That would mean the Miami Heat would still be the defending world champions! Because soccer is the #1 sport in just about every other country in the world their greatest athletes usually choose to play the sport. Needless to say, the US national squad would have looked nice had Dwyane Wade, Alex Rodriguez, Reggie Bush and others decided to take up soccer. For basketball fans, the month-long World Cup can serve as a nice distraction while the NBA Finals finish up and free agency looms large. But there are also some rules in soccer to be on the lookout for that the NBA could adopt to make their game even better. Today we look at one of the most important rules in soccer that also makes a lot of sense for the NBA too. The advantage rule Maybe I’m spoiled by the free-flowing, non-stop action that soccer provides in two 45-minute sections but I’m sick and tired of how referees can stop the game of basketball dead in its tracks anytime they please for any infraction of the game. It’s not just the silly touch fouls or a 50/50 ball (where one player gets a foul for trying to hustle and get the ball) that draw my ire. In a breakaway fast break opportunity for a team that caused a turnover (likely because of their defense), the action can be stopped and the advantage the team had to score an easy basket is taken away because of an intentional foul by the team without that advantage. I don’t understand how this is fair or why the NBA is robbing its fans the opportunity to see a crowd-pleasing dunk or even a momentum shifting botched layup. Instead of a fast break opportunity, the fans are treated to a delay of game while the refs huddle around a monitor to see whether the player had a clear path to the basket to determine if any free throws need to be taken. Does anyone really want to see this? David Stern should adopt the rule in place for soccer to address this immediately. Here’s a decent description of the advantage rule (from various sources on Google).
When a player commits a foul (kicks another player, touches the ball with his hands or breaks any other rule), the referee will either award the other team a free kick or call for "advantage". For instance, if Team A's forward is dribbling with a ball toward goal, but just before he gets a shot off, he is kicked in the knee by a Team B defender, the referee has two choices: Choice 1: His first choice is to blow the play dead with his whistle, bring the ball back to where the foul occurred, and let Team A have a free kick. Choice 2: His second choice is to take a quick second to determine whether Team A's forward is unimpaired by the foul and still is in good position to shoot. If he is, the referee will call out "advantage," which lets the players know he saw a foul occur, but that in his view, the victim of the foul would actually be harmed by having the play stopped. If Team A’s forward goes ahead and shoots but misses, that's too bad--he doesn't then get the free kick. The window for calling the foul is just a second or two, and if advantage is called, the foul evaporates. Of course, if the foul was egregious, the referee can still reprimand the Team B defender after the ball has left play.
So no stoppage would occur if a player with the ball loses it on a turnover and then attempts to grab, say, Rajon Rondo who has recovered the ball but has already passed to Ray Allen near their basket. Either no foul is called at the discretion of the referee (and the play continues) or a personal foul or even a technical could be called after the fact if the player deserved it. But it’s not just limited to intentional fouls that are meant to stop play on purpose. There are a number of other times during a basketball game where the play could just continue instead of having every little foul being called which puts star players (that fans pay to see) and big men who play in the paint be banished prematurely to the bench in foul trouble. The game is played so quickly these days where refs can just let incidental contact go and allow these athletes to just play the game and get it over with already. Speeding the game up would be another beneficial aspect as well for those of us in the East trying to stay awake for a game out in the West.
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