Calling Timeouts You Don't Have

Good question emailed from blogger Liston, especially on a day when everyone is talking about Chris Webber:

I was watching the Hornets/Cavs game last night and, as you know, Cleveland got stuck down by 1 with 0.6 seconds left and no timeouts.

Isn't the rule if you call a timeout with none in the chamber you are given a technical foul but are allowed to imbound the ball at midcourt? I coulda swore I saw that done once. If so, why don't more people do that? Sure, you might end up being down by two, but the chances of you tying/winning the game would probably go up significantly.

I mean, if your choices are a full-court heave while down one, or something set up in a timeout while down two, it's a no-brainer, right? Call that timeout.

The NBA rulemakers, however, have thought of this one. The deal is, if you call a timeout your team doesn't have, you get the timeout (interesting ... why?), and you get a technical.

But you do not get the ball.

Here's the whole rule from NBA.com:


A. Technical Foul
Section I--Excessive Timeouts
a. Requests for a timeout in excess of the authorized number shall be granted and a technical foul shall be assessed. Following the timeout and free throw attempt, the ball will be awarded to the team which shot the free throw and play shall resume with a throw-in nearest the spot where play was interrupted.
b. If the excessive timeout is granted prior to free throw attempt(s), there will be no lineup for the remaining free throws and play shall resume with a throw-in at the point of interruption by the team which shot the technical foul.
c. If the excessive timeout is granted prior to a jump ball, the ball shall be awarded to the team shooting the technical foul at the point of interruption.

UPDATE: The rule wasn't always like this. As TrueHoop reader Jason reminds me, in the 1976 NBA Finals, Phoenix's Paul Westphal famously got Phoenix into an extra overtime in one of the greatest games in NBA history with this tactic. As Wikipedia tells it:

Phoenix's chances seemed slim, as they had the ball under their own basket with a second left. Then Paul Westphal of the Suns made a heady play, signaling for a time out that the Suns did not have. Although this resulted in a technical foul being called on Westphal, the play was critical for Phoenix, because the rules at the time gave Phoenix the same advantage (save for the technical foul shot) that they would have had with timeouts remaining to use; namely, possession of the ball at half court. Boston's Jo Jo White made the technical free throw, increasing Boston's lead to 112-110. Then, Phoenix's Garfield Heard took the inbounds pass from Perry and made a buzzer-beating shot (a turn-around jumper at the top of the key) for the Suns that tied the score yet again, 112-112.