Traveling to Europe

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
5:35
PM ET

Steven Kyler of Hoopsworld has posted a lot of video from our Train Like a Pro session in Florida last week.

TrueHoop readers from Europe saw one little part of it and were indignant. They could not believe that David Thorpe and Mike Moreau were teaching us to travel.

And this is a big deal!

Spanish players were extremely upset during the Olymic gold medal game, because Team USA was getting away with the kind of stepping that FIBA has not traditionally allowed.

As international competition gains a bigger and bigger spotlight, these little differences will have to be ironed out, so that top international competitions can maintain maximum credibility.

What is and is not a travel is one of the hottest areas of dispute in international basketball. (Right up there with that Asian eye thing.)

Of course, one part of the debate has to do with athleticism. America has a disproportionate number of basketball's best athletes. And our looser rules about handling the ball let those players better exploit their speed, strength, and length. Very strict traveling calls keep everyone closer together.

Watch near the end, about the 8:10 mark of this video, to see what the fuss is about.

Thorpe is demonstrating catching the ball, pivoting, taking a step and a dribble before a hop step and a score.

The question, however, has to do with that dribble and that step, and which comes first.

Thorpe demonstrates very slowly, and in his demonstration, certainly he is showing to lift the pivot foot, and then initiate the dribble.

Anthony Macri works at IMG with Thorpe and explains by email:

Technically in demonstration it is a travel. The ball has to be released prior to the pivot foot being 'alighted' to use the words of the rule book. This is very hard to do in demonstration and in FIBA rules it would likely be called a travel.

In the NBA and even in American high school and college basketball, it is unlikely to be called a travel.

When we have a player who is playing in Europe, like Daniel Santiago, we would be mindful of that as a rule, as he would encounter that interpretation of the rule while playing internationally.

Keep in mind, at full speed it does not look quite as mechanical and it is hard to tell the timing of the alighting of the foot and the releasing of the ball. To avoid the travel call, the move should be completed as such:

1.) Receive the pass on a hop.

2.) Inside pivot while ripping the ball to the right hip.

3.) Push the dribble out in front while shifting weight to the right foot.

4.) Lift the pivot foot and drive it forward.

5.) Hammer dunk. 

Mike Moreau is in that video, and explains even further:

Any time we do a demonstration like that at a slower speed, it comes across looking like a travel. At game speed, the ball would be heading toward the floor as the pivot foot is lifted, which is a legal move in America.

All slow demonstrations, because of the nature of emphasizing individual points, and because we can't necessarily do the move at the speed of the athlete, come across looking that way. If you filmed a baseball coach demonstrating the "balk" rule toward first base for a left handed pitcher, you wouldn't expect him to stand perched on one foot with his leg in the air for the entire explanation, would you? He might have to put his foot down to maintain his balance as he showed different parts of the motion. Some guy standing there wouldn't yell, "BALK!" in the middle of it.

However, the European/International/FIBA rule governing a travel when initiating a dribble is different -- the rules are not the same. Without the benefit of video, try to visualize these three legal moves by European standards -- using a toss from left block to right elbow (as you face the basket) and a left foot pivot foot and right foot lead step:

1. Right hand dribble -- then right foot step. You must dribble first -- then step. Legal.
2. Left hand dribble with right foot step. You can take that big step with the right foot, but the dribble must be made with the left hand across your body. Legal.
3. Right hand dribble with left foot step. You must step across your body with your left foot (crossover step) and dribble with your right hand. Legal.

The way we teach it in America for high school, college and the NBA (Ed. note: In this case with a right-foot step while releasing the dribble with the right hand.) is perfectly legal at all levels in the United States, and any international player coming to play here must learn the way we teach it -- in order to get the length and distance necessary to get by the kinds of athletes they will face. If they stay solely with the European version, they will get locked up on many of their drives.

Just as American players go overseas and learn to eliminate that rip move and big first step so that they won't be called for travelling, European players must learn to "travel" by their standards here in order to get to the basket. But, it is a perfectly acceptable and legal rule in our book.

We run into the same issue when we have international high school players in our summer camps. They initially balk at the move, saying it is a travel. But, we have them "Americanized" by the end of the workout!

The American theory is that these Euro/International/FIBA travelling rules were put in place to "slow down" the American players. The rules certainly accomplish that objective, as it keeps the Iversons, Wades and Pauls from really exploding by their defender -- forcing them to take an extra dribble or shorten their step to get to the basket.

Maybe I am missing something, but I can't see where the rules are different. FIBA says:

"To start a dribble, the pivot foot may not be lifted before the ball is released from the hand(s)."

The NBA says:

"In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player's hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor."

However, on the court, there is certainly a difference in how this would be called, and what the referees actually call matters a lot more to players than the rulebook, I'd imagine.

Just for fun, after the jump are the relevant parts of the FIBA and NBA rulebooks. From the Official 2008 FIBA Rulebook:

FIBA: 25.2 Rule

25.2.1 Establishing a pivot foot for a player who catches a live ball on the playing
court:

• While standing with both feet on the floor:

The moment one foot is lifted, the other foot becomes the pivot foot.

• While moving:

If one foot is touching the floor, that foot becomes the pivot foot.
If both feet are off the floor and the player lands on both feet simultaneously,
the moment one foot is lifted, the other foot becomes the pivot foot.
If both feet are off the floor and the player lands on one foot, then that foot
becomes the pivot foot. If a player jumps off that foot and comes to a stop
landing on both feet simultaneously, then ne
ither foot is a pivot foot.

25.2.2 Progressing with the ball for a player who has established a pivot foot while
having the control of a live ball on the playing court:
• While standing with both feet on the floor:

To start a dribble, the pivot foot may not be lifted before the ball is released from the hand(s).
To pass or shoot for a field goal, the player may jump off a pivot foot, but
neither foot may be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the
hand(s).

• While moving:

To pass or shoot for a field goal, the player may jump off a pivot foot and land on one foot or both feet simultaneously. After that, one foot or both feet may be lifted from the floor but neither foot may be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the hand(s).
To start a dribble, the pivot foot may not be lifted before the ball is released
from the hand(s).

• While coming to a stop when neither foot is the pivot foot:

To start a dribble, neither foot may be lifted before the ball is released from
the hand(s).
To pass or shoot for a field goal, one foot or both feet may be lifted but may
not be returned to the floor before the ball is released from the hand(s). 

From the official NBA Rulebook:

Section XIV-Traveling
a. A player who receives the ball while standing still may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
b. A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.
The first count occurs:

(1) As he receives the ball, if either foot is touching the floor at the time he receives it.
(2) As the foot touches the floor, or as both feet touch the floor simultaneously after he receives the ball, if both feet are off the floor when he receives it.

The second occurs:

(1) After the count of one when either foot touches the floor, or both feet touch the floor simultaneously.

c. A player who comes to a stop on the count of one may pivot, using either foot as the pivot foot.
d. A player who comes to a stop on the count of two, with one foot in advance of the other, may pivot using only the rear foot as the pivot foot.
e. A player who comes to a stop on the count of two, with neither foot in advance of the other, may use either foot as the pivot foot.
f. In starting a dribble after (1) receiving the ball while standing still, or (2) coming to a legal stop, the ball must be out of the player's hand before the pivot foot is raised off the floor.
g. If a player, with the ball in his possession, raises his pivot foot off the floor, he must pass or shoot before his pivot foot returns to the floor. If he drops the ball while in the air, he may not be the first to touch the ball.
h. A player who falls to the floor while holding the ball, or while coming to a stop, may not gain an advantage by sliding.
i. A player who attempts a field goal may not be the first to touch the ball if it fails to touch the backboard, basket ring or another player. 

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