NBA official wants traveling clarification

Updated: March 4, 2009, 12:41 PM ET
ESPN.com

The head of officials for the NBA wants to rewrite the league's traveling rule to legalize taking a "second step" and clarify what he considers a hard-to-enforce rule.

"I wrote a version and I put it out there," said Joe Borgia, the NBA's vice president of referee operations. Borgia said he's waiting for the league's upper management to decide if they support the change.

The rule book says players get one step without dribbling, shooting or passing before they will be called for traveling. In practice, NBA players get two steps on a regular basis -- and have for years. "We really don't reference the rulebook," Borgia said in an interview with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott.

Borgia claims the current rule is so confusing that it's impossible to tell if it allows one step or two. The suspicion is that the NBA ignores the rule to inspire exciting offensive players to create great moments. Borgia insists the rule is ignored simply because its intent is lost in a tangle of legalistic terminology.

The NBA's official rule says that "a player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball. The first count occurs (1) As he receives the ball, if either foot is touching the floor at the time he receives it; or (2) As the foot touches the floor, or as both feet touch the floor simultaneously after he receives the ball, if both feet are off the floor when he receives it.

"The second occurs (1) After the count of one when either foot touches the floor, or both feet touch the floor simultaneously."

That allows for interpretation -- and some confusion. "The book possibly could be interpreted differently from what actually happens. You could read it so that it's almost like you're allowed one. If you interpret it that way, right. That's where we're having an issue."

League officiating instructors have been interpreting it as two steps. Officials are taught that, Borgia said.

"Forever, as long as I can remember, a player has been allowed two steps," said Borgia, whose father was an NBA referee for the league's first two decades, and then a referee supervisor. "I've never heard anything other than that ... Everyone in the world knows you're allowed two steps."

Borgia's new version of the rule would clarify that. "We're not really making a rule change," he said. "We're just trying to write the rule that makes sense."