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Thursday, September 9, 2010
FIBA discusses rules changes

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com

ISTANBUL -- The secretary general of FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, would like to see the NBA change its goaltending rules to allow players to knock the ball off the rim.

The official, Patrick Baumann, made the comment during a lunch meeting with eight selected American and European journalists Thursday before the final two quarterfinal games at the FIBA World Championship.

FIBA rules allow players to knock the ball off the rim after it touches the cylinder, whereas in the NBA that would constitute a goaltending violation.

Baumann also said the chances of Great Britain being awarded a spot in the 12-team field for the 2012 Olympics will be made next March during a meeting of the FIBA executive committee, but will be contingent in large part on the British Basketball Federation's road map toward building the growth of the sport for the long term.

FIBA will be instituting two rules changes at the conclusion of this tournament, abandoning the trapezoid lane in favor of an NBA-sized rectangular lane, and moving the 3-point line back by a half-meter (19½ inches) from its current distance of 20 feet, 6.1 inches.

Baumann said the next rule change FIBA wants to institute is widening the court by 50 centimeters on each side, in large part to create additional room for players to attempt 3-point shots from the corners. FIBA courts are slightly smaller than NBA courts, measuring 91 feet, 10 inches long (compared to 94 feet in the NBA) and 49 feet, 2½ inches wide (versus 50 feet in the NBA).

But Baumann, along with outgoing FIBA president Bob Elphinston of Australia and incoming president Yvan Mainini of France, said they are opposed to any changes in the number of timeouts (FIBA allows two per team in the first half and three in the second half, plus one in each overtime period) or the length of the game -- 40 minutes, as opposed to 48 in the NBA.

Baumann also said FIBA will continue to push the International Olympic committee to expand the field from 12 to 16 for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, along with making a push for adding 3-on-3 basketball as a separate competition.

FIBA has been trying for eight years to increase the size of the field, but has met resistance from the IOC, which wants to retain a limit of 10,500 athletes at the Olympic Games. Two sports, baseball and softball, have been dropped from the Olympics for 2012, while two other sports, golf and seven-man rugby, have been added.

"We think it makes perfect sense -- 16 for '16," Baumann said, adding that having four groups of four teams would actually shorten the amount of time needed to play the Olympic tournament by two days. "We're trying to enlarge the quality of the countries to play at the highest level, so that we have a more competitive field."

"There's a lot of politics in this environment," Baumann added. "But if you look around the world and get the statistics of what's the most popular sport in the age group 14-18, it's basketball across all genders. I don't think we have an issue on gaining hearts and minds; we do have a problem in turning those hearts and minds into the level of the structure that supports having 16 teams."

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN.com.