The NBA Development League plans to alter its rules this season to incorporate the FIBA-like goaltending rules, meaning that once the ball strikes the rim, players will be allowed to either swat the ball off the rim or tip it in, unlike the NBA's current rules that state that an imaginary cylinder exists that has the basket as its base and touching the ball while any part of it is in this cylinder -- and still has a chance to go in -- is a violation.
The league will also institute a three-minute overtime as opposed to the current NBA-standard five-minute overtime, with the same rules being instituted that are currently used in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.
These rule changes are rumored to have been a request from the NBA as an experiment, presumably similar to the D-League's testing of the new synthetic basketball prior to it's official introduction into the NBA for the 2006-07 season. The new basketball didn't last for long in the NBA, however, as NBA commissioner David Stern brought back the original leather basketball less than halfway into the season.
This change, which is expected to be officially announced later this week, could be the NBA's reciprocity to the new NBA-like rules FIBA enacted earlier this season. Those changes included FIBA games now being played with an NBA-sized lane as opposed to the previous trapezoid, the NBA's "no-charge zone" under the basket, an extended three-point lane as well as changes to the frontcourt/backcourt and related "over and back" rules -- all making the FIBA brand of play much more similar to its NBA counterpart.
Stern has previously voiced his support for the FIBA-style goaltending rules, most recently in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 2009. "As far as I'm concerned, FIBA has it right: It's in play and the only thing the referee has to judge is, Did it hit the rim? That's it," Stern said. "To me, that's a sensible rule, and it would make foul shooting more fun too."
The D-League has tried one other time to institute FIBA's goaltending rule, during the 2005-06 season, though it lasted just one season. A request from Patrick Baumann, the secretary general of FIBA, earlier this month that FIBA "would like to see the NBA change its goaltending rules to allow players to knock the ball off the rim" is more than likely what motivated the NBA to have the D-League revisit this rule.
While it makes sense to test these new changes in the D-League before they're officially implemented in the NBA, it seems that changing the goaltending rule could take a considerable amount of time to get used to for high-flying NBA players who have been trained their entire careers that they're not allowed to touch the basketball while inside the cylinder. That said, when and if the NBA decides that these new rules will be implemented, it will be important to include the NBA Summer League in these rule changes as well as training the NBA's officials, coaches, players and even the fans to minimize any issues with the new rules.