Some Changes I’d Like to See in the WNBA for 2014

Extreme CU of new WNBA logo showing the WAs the 2013 WNBA regular season winds up, I feel a need to suggest a few changes the WNBA might consider for the next season (some of these will seem familiar to long-time readers).

Increased Rosters

Because of effects from the “Great Recession”, the WNBA reduced roster sizes so that financial pressures could be eased on some of the teams. This was meant to be a stop-gap solution until the economy picked up again. Well…the economy has picked up again but, just as in the general populace, it seems the companies aren’t hiring.

The time has come to help teams out by giving them back more player options. My suggestion is an additional full roster spot (two would be better) plus an injury spot where you can protect an injured player for a minimum period of time (say four games or fourteen days, whichever is shorter) while allowing you to put another player on a short-term contract.

Too often teams are showing up with only eight or nine game-able players. This needs to stop.

Change Complaint Technicals

I understand the league’s desire to keep players and coaches from berating officials. Not only is it uncivilized, but it reflects badly on the league. I would also suggest that if the refs missed fewer calls (and were overall more consistent) then the complaining would decrease. That said, the ramifications of receiving a normal technical for a non-flagrant act seems out of proportion to the offence. This needs to change.

I propose that complaint technicals* be purely foul-shot penalized (e.g. 1 free throw for the first two in a game by a team; 2 for the next two; 3 for the next two; and so on).  Players/coaches do not get fined and its effect on the technical total (for suspension purposes) lasts only for (say) the three games following the infraction.

* This includes accidental not-recaptured ball-slamming where the ball is not an obvious danger to people or property on or around the court and which does not cause a delay of game in the run of play (e.g. a dead ball time out). Ball-slamming that is a threat and/or a delay of game would still assessed as per current rules.

Technicals for Flopping

For 2013, the WNBA installed a dubious anti-flopping rule. Fines would be assessed after review at the end of the game in which the alleged flop occurred. There is no reporting I can see that any fines have been levied. The transparency for this infraction is astonishingly opaque.

I’ve never thought a solely out-of-game evaluation of flopping was a good idea. Sure, it let the officials off the hook for possible game-changing calls, but it also meant that any player willing to lose some cash could flop at will without consequence to her team.

Flops should be the same sort of technical as 3-second defense calls. Infractions incur a team technical and a foul shot. Sure, refs will likely opt to call these as 50-50 events (especially in tight games), but let’s face it, if a Danielle Adams (say) crashes to the court after a minor bump from a DeWanna Bonner (say), it’s probably a flop and it should be reflected with in-game consequences.

Emphasis on “Letting Them Play” Limits

The WNBA is known as a very physical league. There is a tendency, especially with some referees, of a “letting them play” attitude. Unfortunately, unless it is well-monitored, this quickly devolves beyond “chippiness” into outright thuggish play. While the best referees can manage to toe the line, most aren’t quite so talented. As a result, I’d like to see a little more consideration toward tempering the near-violent activities in the paint and surrounding some of the marquee players (who tend to both endure and inflict more than their share of abuse).

While much of this should be handled in-game, I’d like to see some publicly reported post-game -reviewed fines being assessed: not just to players but to referees for losing control of their games.

Breakaway Advantage

The breakaway foul has been one of the better rules of basketball. It’s helped keep players safe. Unfortunately, a lot of teams have figured out that a quick foul in the backcourt can stop a breakaway in its tracks.

I once again propose: When a fast-break is in progress, if an incidental foul occurs, the referee will raise eir arm but not blow the whistle. This indicates to the scorer’s table that a foul has been noted, but the lack of whistle means that the play is still in-progress. The whistle is blown when the initial shot is made, missed, a shooting foul occurs, the ball goes out of play, or there is a change of possession. If the shot was made, then the foul is tallied and one foul shot is awarded. If the shot was missed and there were no other fouls, then the appropriate action based on team fouls is followed.

Referee Stats

I know this will never happen because referees are so protected that even announcers are cowed at suggesting an official (or team of officials) is screwing the pooch in a game. Even so, I think it would be interesting to have stats on the referees: what fouls they call and against what players. This allows the public to evaluate the referee team on court that game: are they prone to call complaint technicals, do they tend to call charges vs blocks, refs that call travelling and those that rarely do, etc. It’s time for some transparency regarding people who can directly affect the outcome of a game.

* * *

Obviously there are other peeves and innovations that could be put in, but the above are essentially changes in administration. The teams desperately need larger rosters — I don’t think there’s much argument about that. The rest are just to maintain a fair and safe playing field without making any drastic changes.

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