NBA committee votes to change 'clear path' rule

The NBA's competition committee approved five small rules changes that will take effect in the 2006-07 season if approved by the league's Board of Governors, ESPN.com learned Friday.

The most notable change would be to the so-called "clear path rule," covering situations in which a player is intentionally fouled to prevent a breakaway. The team being fouled would get two shots and the ball under the proposed change. Currently, the penalty is one shot and the ball.

The other changes approved by the league's competition committee, made up of one representative from each of the 30 teams, are as follows:

• When a player on the receiving end of a punching, elbowing or flagrant category two foul is unable to attempt his foul shots, one of the four teammates who were on the court when the foul happened would be able to take the free throws in his place. Under current rules, the team that committed the foul can choose any player on the opposing team -- even someone on the bench -- to shoot the free throws.

• Players who are not lined up along the lane would be prohibited from standing anywhere beneath the foul line extended when free throws are being shot. This would end the practice of a player dashing in from the corner to try to tip in a missed free throw.

• In an effort to improve the flow of the game, referees would be permitted to let play continue when a defending team gained possession of the ball a split-second after the shot clock expires. Under current rules, if the buzzer sounds when a shot is in mid-air and the ball misses the rim, the referees are required to stop play and award the ball out of bounds on the sideline.

• Unlimited substitutions would be allowed during all 20-second timeouts. Currently, they are allowed only during the final two minutes of each half.

The Board of Governors will vote on the proposed changes in April.

The "clear path" rule would be tweaked because statistics showed teams are averaging less than 2 points when clear path fouls are called.

"The original idea behind the clear path foul was we didn't want them to occur. But now, when they do occur, the offended team is not getting the yield point-wise that they should be," NBA vice president Stu Jackson told ESPN.com.

The committee turned down a proposal to move the markings along the foul lane, would would have allowed the non-shooting team's players to line up a few inches closer to the shooter when free throws were about to be attempted.

"We're going to continue to evaluate that one. There's a feeling that maybe it's getting more difficult to secure a rebound as the non-shooting team on a missed free throw, with buys getting pushed under [the basket]," Jackson said. "We didn't pass that one, but we're looking at it."