Misunderstood rules -- add your own

2 replies [Last post]
ClayK's picture
Joined: Mar 10 2012

The hand is part of the ball (from the NHFS rule book) so no matter how hard you hit someone's hand, if it's on the ball, it is not supposed to be a foul:

Rule 10-6, Art. 2: A player shall not contact an opponent with his/her hand unless such contact is only with the opponent's hand while it is on the ball and is incidental to an attempt to play the ball.

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Lee Michaelson
Lee Michaelson's picture
Joined: Sep 20 2011
I think the most

I think the most misunderstood rule, and possibly the most useless in the digital era, is the so-called Trent Tucker rule, which provides that if less than three-tenths of a second remain on the game or shot clock, the ball cannot be scored on a regular shot from a throw-in but instead must be tipped into the basket. In other words, the scorer cannot gather possession of the ball and shoot it but can only tip or tap it into the hoop in a kind of Alley-oop.

The rule derives from the era when most leagues used analogue clocks and the impression (never particularly well-documented) was that the hands on such clocks tended to hesitate for some fraction of a second before kicking into gear.Some clocks (including, notoriously the ASI clocks used at Madison Square Garden) did have such problems at the time, especially when small spans of time were involved, but others didn't and there is zero evidence that the digital clocks commonly in use today share that affliction.

But in reality, the "evidence" for this delay was the a priori belief of  NBA exec Rod Thorn (previously a GM for the Bulls, BTW) that a player would be physically incapable of catching the ball and releasing the shot in three-tenths of a second or less, as did Trent Tucker of the NY Knicks when he knocked down the game-winning trey against the Chicago Bulls in Jan. 1990. Thus, if a player was able to do what so many believed was impossible, clearly the clock must have "hesitated." the following year, the NBA adopted the Trent Tucker rule, which was subsequently adopted in one form or another by FIBA, the WNBA, the NCAA, and pretty much any league that uses a shot clock.

The trouble is, few people, including coaches, understand the rule, many don't even know it exists. Several years back, the Tucker rule sent USC to the PAC-10 women's tournament final over Cal following one of the longest referee confabs I've ever witnessed. Ashley Walker had netted what appeared to be the go-ahead field-goal and Cal and its fans had begun to celebrate when the zebras huddled at the monitors for what had to be a good 20 minutes. Most assumed they were trying to determine whether she'd gotten the shot off in time, and for those who'd missed it the first time around, the jumbotron repeatedly showed the red light coming on after the ball hit the rim, well in time had that been the issue. So now one could understand what was taking so long, and when at length Walket's shot was waved off, the Cal fans, players and even the coach were livid.

As it turns out, Walket had collected the shot and laid it in rather than tipping it, as no one on the Golden Bears' bench appeared to know was required. That had been decided pretty quickly by the refs, who spent the rest of the time at the monitor trying to determine whether the clock had been stopped and started when it should have on the penultimate play. The first part of the inquiry went to whether there should have been more than 3/10s of a second on the clock to begin with; the second, whether the timers had restarted it on time, appeared to be merely satisfying their curiosity since Walker had quite obviously done what the whole point of the Tucker rule would have us believe she could not have - I.e., caught the ball and gotten a shot off in less than 3/10s of a second. (BTW the shot didn't occur on a dead all throw-in, another reason the Tucker rule wouldn't apply.)

And she's not the only one to have done it, as other teams have lost games over the years -- or won games when not even the refs knew to apply it. But why should the outcome of a game, especially a playoff, hinge on a rule the players, coaches and at times even the refs don't understand? Cal's coach still didn't undestand why her team had lost by the time she hit the presser, the two coaches on the other side of the bracket had a tough time articulating the little-used but outcome decisive rule after witnessing the game, and USC's Mark Traykh was at least familiar with the rule because one of his teams had previously lost a game when the rule was applied to wave off their go-ahead shot, but even so, he couldn't state the rule properly, incorrectly stating that it applied when there were three seconds left on the clock. This is a point of confusion for many of those who are even aware of the rule's existence, because many clocks/scoreboards don't clearly distinguish between seconds and tenths of seconds. Others refuse to believe the rule exists and when you try to convince them will point to Derek Fisher's  fadeaway jumper to carry the Lakers over the Spurs in the 2004 playoffs. That shot in fact occurred with 0.4 seconds left so the Trent Tucker rule wasn't implicated. Fisher, BTW, did again, TO, rather than FOR, the Lakers in just 3.1 this past Jan. 

But then again, if Fisher can collect the ball, turnaround, and deliver a jumper in 0.4, why can't a player stationed deep in the key catch and release, in 0.3. And now that digital clocks are the near universal standard, why keep the rule in the first place? Proponents will argue that timers may delay in starting the clock, but to the degree that's true, then it's true throughout the entire game, meaning we don't really knowwhether there's 3/10s left or not. And remember, time was when no one believed a human could run a 4-minute mile. Should track and field have adopted a rule basically disqualifying the results of any race where a runner appeared to have done so?


This rule belongs on the ash heap.



ClayK's picture
Joined: Mar 10 2012
The rule may not make much

The rule may not make much sense, but there is absolutely no excuse for a coach making six figures not to know the rule book backwards and forwards -- or at the least, have someone on staff who is designated as the rules' expert.

And every player should know the rules as well, since D-1 players are essentially getting paid upwards of $150,000 to play basketball.

I'm surprised enough when veteran high school coaches have no clue about the rules, but it's validation of the widely held belief that women's basketball coaches don't work very hard when a coaching staff doesn't know about such a simple, and critical, rule.