Traveling Violation: NBA on rule change

By Henry Abbott

The NBA may not have changed anything about how it intends to enforce the traveling rule. But make no mistake -- it has changed the way a key part of the rule is written, even if an executive seems to be implying otherwise.

The Associated Press quotes a league executive refuting the story that the NBA has meaningfully changed its rule about players on the move gathering a dribble or a pass:

Stu Jackson, the league's executive vice president of basketball operations, said recent media reports that the rule had been changed to allow an extra step after the dribble were not true.

"We have not changed the traveling rule, nor how we enforce the rule," Jackson said Friday during the league's annual preseason conference call. "What we did change was some antiquated language in our existing rule as it related to steps."

The section of the NBA rulebook dealing with traveling used to allow players to "use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop." It was reworded this season to say players "may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball."

Missing is the definition of that "two-count rhythm." From the old rule, which has governed every NBA game before this autumn:

The first count occurs: (1) As he receives the ball, if either foot is touching the floor at the time he receives it.

The second count, the rules then make clear, is a player's next step. Therefore, the two counts would be exhausted after the running player has taken just one step. The new rule, meanwhile, allows two -- a crucial difference.

As reported in March, the NBA has long ignored the rule while instructing referees to allow two steps, so it is believable that the way the game is called will not change. But the rule certainly has. The new video rulebook says, for instance, that "a dribbler may take two steps after gathering the ball to end a dribble."