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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: October 16, 11:19 AM ET
NBA to alter traveling rules

ESPN.com news services

NBA players will be able to take two steps before they have to stop, pass or shoot this season.

The NBA has put into writing a rule allowing players on the move to gather the ball, after driving or catching it, and then take two steps. Throughout NBA history, the rulebook said players could take one step.

The new rule reads, in part: "A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball."

It is believed to be the first time any league, at any level anywhere in the world, has explicitly allowed two steps.

In March, NBA vice president of referee operations Joe Borgia told TrueHoop's Henry Abbott that referees had long been instructed to ignore the rulebook on this point and allow two steps.

On a conference call with reporters earlier this week, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson told Abbott: "Based on Joe's comments, when you had a conversation with Joe, we did in fact tweak the language on traveling in this year's book."

Enforcement of the one-step rule has been hit-or-miss at every level of basketball. Archival footage shows NBA greats, from Magic Johnson and Pete Maravich to Bob Cousy and Julius Erving, getting away with two steps. Borgia, whose father was also an NBA official, said he cannot remember a time when NBA referees did not allow two steps.

Others insist allowing two steps represents an NBA strategy to aid scorers and make the league more exciting. Legendary point guard and current Knick broadcaster Walt "Clyde" Frazier says the league relaxed traveling standards some time ago to increase scoring.

"They go 20 feet to the hoop without dribbling one time," Frazier said. "This is what they are getting away with nowadays. Some of them are so obvious. You'll hear me on the broadcast saying 'That's a travel! Watch the feet!' Wilt [Chamberlain] would have averaged 100 points a game if they had let him do that.

"When guys couldn't put up points, about when they changed the hand-check rule, they made things easier for scorers, because these players can't shoot like we did," Frazier said. "Those few years when the Knicks were good [the early 1990s] -- that wasn't pretty basketball."

Whether or not this will affect play on the court remains to be seen. Referees have long been instructed to allow two steps and in interviews with NBA players last season there was some confusion about the rule. But most said they thought they were allowed to take two steps.

ESPN.com TrueHoop blogger Henry Abbott contributed to this story.