Spain pushed Team USA to their limits in the Men's Olympic Basketball Gold Medal Game. José Calderon, who was injured and could not take part in the game, in fact believes that Spain should have won the match.
On Calderon's personal blog, he was a little coy about the topic, going only so far as to say, "Now is not the time to discuss the referees, injuries, absences..." However, on news site El Mundo, he aired his opinion a little more clearly in the Olympic blog he maintained for the site.
(Please note that this translation is a combination of my rudimentary Spanish knowledge and that of google's translator service)
"This is not the time to speak of officiating, but I think with the FIBA rules we would have won. That is why we are a little annoyed, because we were right there at the finish line and we have just missed out."
He makes a point on both blogs of pointing out that Spain is a team and plays as such and that this is their strength. There is no doubt that this is what took the Spaniards to such a high level in the Games, despite missing out at the end.
Calderon's point regarding the rules does require some consideration though. Did the rule changes and different interpretation of those existing rules by FIBA (to come more in line with NBA rules) give an advantage to the Americans? If you were a conspiracy theorist, would you then take that one step further to ask the question as to whether the rules were changed/interpreted differently by FIBA in order to keep USA Basketball interested in international basketball and continue to send top players to compete?
So, to what rule changes exactly is Calderon referring? There have been no specific rule changes that came into effect prior to the Olympics per se, however there has been a perceived difference in the way the rules have been interpreted by referees, in the eyes of many observers. These differences mainly centre around travelling violations, charge/block calls, carrying violations and continuation on shooting fouls.
There have however been legislative changes made to the rules by FIBA, that will come into effect at later dates. At FIBA's 25-26 April, 2008 meeting the Board agreed on a series of rule changes which would come into play after the Olympics, ie from 1 October, 2008 and then a greater set of rule changes that would be effective after the 2010 World Championships (post 1 October, 2010).
The October 2008 rule changes are fairly insignificant and mainly involve backcourt violations and unsportsmanlike/technical fouls. The 2010 rule changes is where FIBA really sends their daughter into bed with David Stern.
As of 2010, the three point line will come out to 6.75m to move toward the NBA's line. The key will no longer be a trapezoid, but will become an NBA-styled rectangle. No-charge semi-circles will be marked under the basket. In short, FIBA basketball will become the NBA -- they just need to adjust the zone defence rules to marry up fully.
So why has FIBA made these rule changes? "The recommendations by the FIBA Technical Commission and the decisions taken by the Central Board were strived by the attempt to further unify all existing game rules and to have, in the future, only one set of rules for the game of basketball worldwide."
The emphasis above is mine. The obvious thing to be noted here however, is that most of the changes in the relationship have come from FIBA's side. The marriage counsellor surely isn't doing their job properly.
Howard Beck of the New York Times: "Winning Olympic gold in Beijing depended partly on Team USA’s ability to cope with the unfamiliar geometry of the international game: a trapezoidal lane, a shallow 3-point arc and a contorted array of driving lanes.
But in two years, the trapezoid will be dead, the arc will be a little deeper and the international game will be a bit closer in style to the N.B.A.’s."
The view from the outside is that of course the NBA has always been very resistant to rule changes that would affect the product they are promoting. David Stern wants to maintain a league which demostrates excitement, with one-on-one matchups, slashing to the basket and serious athletic dunking on display. So FIBA no doubt felt forced to comprimise in the NBA's direction if the two were ever to meet up. Are the changes good for the game worldwide? That's questionable and to a large extent a matter of taste. Is strawberry or chocolate ice cream tastier?
The angle coming from FIBA on this is that they like the NBA rules and saw a need for these changes:
Basketball officials in the United States welcomed the changes, although they did not specifically push for them.
“It’s also probably an endorsement of our game and our rules,” said Jerry Colangelo, the managing director of the senior national team for USA Basketball.
Although it appears that the international game is moving toward the American model, “that is not the way the FIBA board who made the decision actually felt about it,” said Patrick Baumann, the secretary general for FIBA. The goals of the association’s board, he said, were much broader than merely standardizing the game.
In FIBA’s view, the 3-point shot has become too common. In 1984, when the arc was added in international play, only 14 percent of all field-goal attempts were 3-pointers, Baumann said. Now, he added, that number is 40 percent and players routinely make 38 to 40 percent of them.
“The board felt that’s no longer now an exceptional shot,” Baumann said. “It felt something needed to be done.”
What do you think? Are the changes for the good of the game internationally? Does Calderon have a point in relation to these past Olympics and how they were officiated?