Around this time of year every web page you turn to has a prediction involved. You can find predictions of the upcoming season on ESPN thanks to Grizzlies hater John Hollinger, on Wages of Wins thanks to David Berri and even on CNN/SI (wouldn't that sound better as CSI Atlanta?). Some of these will come true and some won't and no one will ever remember who was correct when the season is over.
I am going to make a further reaching prediction. Not about who will win this season or how many games they will win but about how the game will be played sometime in the future.
The Grizzlies are participating in NBA Europe 2008 starting Tuesday and they won't be playing using NBA rules. They won't be playing using Euroleague rules either. They are playing under what the Associated Press is calling:
A hybrid of NBA and Euroleague rulesWhat exactly is a hybrid of NBA and Euroleague rules anyway?
That took a little digging but I did manage to find what I was looking for. Euroleague basketball has the rule changes posted and it makes for interesting reading. The time is the same as the NBA rules with 48 minutes games divided into four 12 minutes quarters. This makes for longer games than the European teams are used to and that could have an effect at the end of games. It still takes six fouls to foul out and the coach and players can call timeouts. Taking rules from the Euroleague is the trapezium lane shape which makes the bottom of the lane wider than the top. This makes it more difficult for big men to camp around the basket, opens more passing lanes in the middle but also makes it more difficult for backside double teams if a player does get the ball in the paint.
Unique rules for these games include a 3 pt line that is further out than the Europeans are used to playing but closer in than the NBA is used to having to shoot. This should be a decided advantage to NBA players in theory but in reality is an equal handicap. NBA players used to shooting from further away have to decide to take a longer shot than is necessary or move in closer for a shot they are less comfortable taking.
There are differences in timeouts as well as both squads have to adjust to only 6 timeouts per game. That is one more than the Europeans are used to having but one fewer than NBA teams usually have. There are two 20 second timeouts as well which is the same as the NBA is used to having. Basically the NBA coaches have one fewer full time out to use while the Europeans get one additional timeout plus the additional two 20 second timeouts they don't have in Euroleague play.
The biggest adjustment for NBA players involves touching a ball in the cylinder. This rule exists in Euroleague but is strictly forbidden in the NBA. This means that once the ball hits the rim anyone can swat it away without fear of penalty.
Is this the future David Stern foresees when he discusses having an NBA team in Europe? I think the future definitely requires a single set of rules for playing the game and using combinations of both makes the most sense. I don't know if all of these rules will eventually become the standard but I definitely think we are on the path to such uniformity and knowing the differences will make the games more interesting to watch. Fans of the Grizzlies and the other NBA teams need to know these differences and watch to see how they play out in the games. It may not be too long before everyone is playing the same game and that makes these exhibitions far more interesting than the normal pre-season games.
I predict these hybrids may become the standard before too long.
You can check out all the differences on Anthony's FIBA vs. USA page.