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December 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM

WNBA NOTES: New rules, status, extensions and a move to prime time

The WNBA brass convened last month and Renee Brown, the WNBA’s chief of basketball operations and player relations, revealed its decision on new rules Thursday morning. Sorry, there’s no anti-tanking rule to protect what many believed Phoenix was guilty of last season to grab a coveted No. 1 overall draft pick. And, thankfully, UConn legendary coach Geno Auriemma’s idea to lower rims in women’s basketball also wasn’t installed.

Here’s the release on the rulings the league did make:

The WNBA will implement new rules regarding flopping and defensive three-seconds, while also extending the three-point line, Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations Renee Brown announced today following the league’s Board of Governor’s Meeting. The rules will go into effect beginning with the 2013 season.

“Flops that are intended to mislead referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into believing a foul call was missed are a detriment to the game,” Brown said. “With that, both the Board of Governors and the Competition Committee felt strongly that a player who, upon video review by the league, is believed to have committed a flop will, after an initial warning, be given an automatic penalty.”

“Flopping” will be defined as any physical act that, upon review, reasonably appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player.

The primary factor in determining if a player committed a flop is whether her physical reaction to an action by another player (whether or not that action resulted in contact) is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force, direction, or nature of the action of the other player. An example would be a player who lunges, flails, or falls following minimal or non-existent contact with an opponent.

Physical acts that constitute legitimate basketball plays (such as moving to a spot in order to draw an offensive foul) and minor physical reactions to contact will not be treated as flops.

During preseason games, warning will be given for acts judged to be flops. Any player who is determined to have committed a flop during the regular season will, upon the first offense, receive a warning. Subsequent violations will result in fines of increasing amounts. Beginning with a sixth violation, a player will be subject to a further increased fine and/or suspension.

The league will announce at a later date a separate set of penalties for flopping that will apply during the playoffs.

The three-point line will be extended from 20 feet, 6 1/4 inches to 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches, consistent with the distance inherent in all FIBA competitions.

“We extended the line to its current distance of 20 feet, 6 1/4 inches in 2004 and our three-point shooting percentage increased,” said Brown. “Since then the talent level and the athleticism of our players has only continued to increase; and with a significant percentage of our players also playing – and excelling – internationally, this brings us into line with the international game. The extended three-point line and defensive three-second rule will create spacing and open up the lane. The improved spacing will create increased opportunities for athletic players to drive to the basket and either shoot or pass the ball back out to open players on the perimeter.”

Under the new defensive three-second rule, a violation will result in a technical foul being assessed if a defensive player violates the “actively guarding” guidelines. Following the free throw for the technical foul, the offense will maintain possession of the ball at the free throw line extended.

Slight changes also have been made with regard to the use of instant replay as it pertains to flagrant fouls and the restricted area.

Whereas previous rules allowed for replay review of Flagrant Foul 2’s but not Flagrant Foul 1’s, the level of the foul will now be assigned only after the play has been reviewed.  Replay procedures are also being instituted during the final minute of regulation and overtime if officials determine the offensive player committed the illegal contact but are uncertain as to whether the defender was inside or outside the restricted area.

As Brown states, the three-point line won’t make a difference because it’s now the same length as international ball, where most WNBA players fill rosters. Others have practiced from even farther out, so expect the three-point shot percentage to remain the same (35.3 percent).

The other rules might as well be called “BG Guidelines” for presumed in-coming star Brittney Griner. The 6-foot-8 phenom is already a defensive problem in NCAA ball, averaging 21.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and setting the NCAA record for career dunks at eight. Plenty will try every trick in the book to get her out off the floor, so flopping is a great add. It’s already cleaning up NBA ball, but I doubt it’ll temper fans’ ire toward officials for bad calls as Brown suggests.

Former Storm coach Lin Dunn, who led Indiana to its first WNBA championship in October, was part of the competition committee meetings in Atlanta. She was positive about the changes on Twitter.


RESERVE ME: The WNBA has announced Jan. 15, 2013 as the date for which the status of players will be announced. Basically this is when teams will have to cut ties with ballooning lists of reserve players. The Storm has dibs on Polish C Ewelina Kobryn, Australian posts Abby Bishop and Suzy Batkovic, Spanish PG Sylvia Dominguez, Czech Republic F Jana Vesela, 2012 third-round draft pick Keisha Hampton (DePaul) and Hungarian F Tijana Krivacevic.


JACKSON UPDATE: Storm All-Star F Lauren Jackson was finally given a diagnose for her acute hamstring injury. The Australian native suffered through the pain when she returned to Seattle after competing in the London Olympic Games. Following Seattle’s decisive Game 3 playoff elimination to Minnesota in the opening round, Jackson intimated her body was at the end of its rope.

She’s under contract to return to Seattle for the 2013 season.

Jackson’s main injury is a big tear in her adductor magnus muscle, which she first injured during Olympic preparations in the Czech Republic in June, according to the Canberra Times.

“More than anything it was just frustration not knowing what it is, and that it could potentially end my career, (which) was something I had to deal with,” Jackson, 31, told the newspaper. “I feel like finally I know exactly what it is, we all do and we know how to treat it. It’s real relief. I’m with the best people and they know me well enough to know I was really scared, and now I’m not so scared any more.”

Jackson, a 6-6 post, is hopeful to play with the Canberra Capitals in January. She expressed confidence before leaving Seattle that her team of physicians in Australia could return her to her 2010 WNBA MVP form.


REEVE STAYS: Minnesota rightfully is standing behind coach Cheryl Reeve. She agreed to a multiyear contract extension. Reeve led the Lynx to the franchises’ first championship in 2011. Minnesota, which lost to Indiana in the 2012 WNBA Finals, has won a league-best 67 games under Reeve. Her 65.7 winning percentage ranks second in WNBA history.


DRAFT SPOTLIGHT: The WNBA draft will be in the national spotlight for the first time in the league’s 16-year history. The highly anticipated event will be April 15, 2013 on ESPN2 beginning at 5pm (PST). ESPNU will host the second and third rounds beginning at 6pm. In previous years, the draft was held in the morning for West Coast viewers and the latter rounds have been on NBA-TV, a premium cable station for most providers.

The interest to move to a prime time slot was prompted by three current NCAA stars in Griner, Delaware F Elena Delle Donne and Notre Dame PG Skylar Diggins who are potential WNBA draft picks. Diggins’ Fighting Irish lost to Griner’s Bears for the 2012 NCAA championship. Baylor had a 42-game win streak snapped by No. 1 Stanford in November, Griner missing a potential game-winning jumper at the buzzer.

Phoenix won the draft lottery after finishing 7-27 in 2012 and has the No. 1 overall pick. Seattle (16-18) will select sixth overall. Only don’t think it’s a skimpy draft after the three budding All-Stars. Among the names Storm coach and general manager Brian Agler could select from are Connecticut G Kelly Faris, Ohio State PG Tayler Hill, and Maryland F Tianna Hawkins.

Comments | More in Final Four, Storm, WNBA, WNBA Draft | Topics: Brian Agler, Brittney Griner, Cheryl Reeve


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