Sports 101

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Scoring is up, physical play is down, and the game is more fluid and exciting. What's going on with pro basketball?

New rules. They were put into place this season to increase scoring and limit physical play. The changes were made by a cross section of basketball people such as top coaches, general managers, owners, and former players. So far, the rules seem to be working. Teams are averaging close to 100 points a game, up from 91 points last season.

"We had to do something," says Rod Thorn, the NBA vice president in charge of rules enforcement. "The game had become stagnant." Looks as if the rules are here to stay.

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Q: What are the two biggest changes?

A: For starters, the reduction of a defender's contact with his hands or forearms on an offensive player above the free-throw line. Quick players such as Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson were being slowed by physical play ranging from a hand on the hip to being shoved off course. The other changes include a five-second rule limiting the amount of time an offensive player with his back to the basket can control the ball below the free-throw line before he must pass, shoot, or dribble; also, the shot clock is reset to 14 seconds instead of 24 seconds after certain stoppages of play.

Q: Besides higher-scoring games, how else are the rule changes altering the game?

A: More fouls are being called, which means slightly longer games. Fouls are up about six per game and games are running about five minutes longer than normal. Not every player is pleased with the new rules. Indiana star Reggie Miller says he's frustrated. "It's different from night to night. The old officials are calling it by the old rules, and the younger ones are calling from [the new] rule book."

To see video explanations of the new rules, log on to www.nba.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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