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Positive Rules Changes Long Overdue in WNBA


By Matt Velazquez


On Thursday, the WNBA announced multiple rule changes that will be instituted in 2013. The new rules include defensive three seconds, an anti-flopping policy, and a pushed-back three-point line, all of which serve multiple beneficial purposes for the league. That said, these changes have been a long time coming and, quite frankly, could and should have been instituted years ago.


To some degree, each of these three major changes is already in effect in the NBA. The NBA’s three-point line is three full feet past the college line, which makes the jump from college to the pros a big one. The defensive three-seconds violation was integrated into the NBA in 2001 to help open up the floor and speed up the game, which it has done successfully. Starting with the current season, the NBA also established rules against flopping in order to keep the game clean and fair.


With its rule-change announcement yesterday, the WNBA made a major shift to catch up with the NBA. Not only is the bar set higher for the league with these modifications, but they represent a positive step in the realm of gender equity. Female athletes in the WNBA are, like the men in the NBA, world-class athletes. They deserve a three-point line that represents their skill level, defensive rules that allow for speed and improvisation, and a game that is clear of floppers.


In my opinion, the move of the three-point line was the most overdue. It’s incredible that the WNBA three-point line, which previous to this rule change stood at 20 feet, 6.25 inches, has been shorter than the arc in college basketball since an NCAA rules adjustment in 2011. Even before the NCAA altered its rules, the WNBA’s line was just nine inches further back than in the college game, and shorter than the distance for three-pointers for collegiate men’s basketball.


The new arc—set at 22 feet, 1.75 inches—also has another benefit in that the league is now in accord with international basketball regulations. Many of its players compete and excel overseas during the offseason, so they’re no strangers to sinking longer baskets. There is no lack of high-quality shooters in the WNBA—look no further than the Fever’s own Katie Douglas, who was tied for the league high with 80 trifectas this past season at a clip of 42.3 percent—so the shorter line was only doing the league and its players a disservice.


Though not as belated as the change to the three-point arc, defensive three seconds is a necessary addition to the WNBA. It is not consistent with the international game, but it represents the truly American brand of basketball that the NBA has helped create. By forcing players who are not actively guarding out of the paint, this rule helps spread the court and gives quick, heady ball handlers a better chance to drive the lane and create.


As earlier stated, this rule has been in play in the NBA since 2001 and it has garnered positive feedback, so it’s about time that it extends to the WNBA, where it should find just as much success.


On the topic of flopping, there’s not much to say. Flopping has no place in sports, so it’s great that the WNBA is finally going to crack down on offenders.


These rules changes to the WNBA should have come sooner, but for various reasons they’re only starting in 2013. Once in place, it will take time for some players to transition—that’s what the preseason is for— but ultimately these alterations should result in a better, faster brand of basketball that represents the best American and international aspects of the game as well as a new, higher level of gender equity in professional basketball.

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