WNBA Rule Changes for the 2005 Season

Letter of the Law

May 18, 2005 - As the WNBA is continually striving to make the league better and the competition more exciting and fan-friendly, one new rule and one rule interpretation change have been implemented for the 2005 season. A note was issued to all WNBA General Managers and Head Coaches from the league office in New York.

"I wanted to clarify a couple of rules and interpretations that may still be unclear," said Renee Brown, WNBA's Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel. "We have only one actual rule change this season. Our timeout policy with the approval of our competition committee has been altered. Coaches now have control of when the 'media' or full timeouts will be taken."

First, the WNBA announced a change to the parameters of one-on-one defense. Specifically, the defender of a player with the ball cannot have contact with her extended forearm on that player from the baseline in the backcourt to the freethrow line extended in the frontcourt. Also, only a "tactile touch" will be permitted on the player with the ball. But this can only happen once. Multiple and successive tactile touches will not be legal and a foul will be called.

Players like Mercury guard Anna DeForge will benefit from the rule interpretation.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
"We call it a 'hot stove one touch.' You can touch it once, but don't touch it again," Mercury guard Anna DeForge told ESPN's Nancy Lieberman. "Now we only get one touch, not twice or three times like it's been in the past."

This interpretation has proven beneficial to the NBA game after it was introduced. It will certainly help to open up more scoring.

"Offensively, it's great. As shooters, it gives us both a better advantage," DeForge said. "Nobody can come right up on us and we won't get beat up throughout the course of the game. Defensively, it's going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but it's really going to clean the game up and create a lot more scoring offensively."

"The rule is going to change the landscape of women's basketball and the way most of these players have been playing the game since they first picked up a ball," Lieberman wrote in a column earlier in the week. "Personally, I like the rule and think it's an important step in improving the game. It will force teams to play with more finesse but also should help players to develop better one-on-one skills."

The other big change for the 2005 season pertains to the time-out format. This one is harder to explain and probably easier to implement than the forearm rule. The new time-out format increases the number of full time-outs given to each team from one to three per half, but two of those three time-outs will generally be assigned as mandatory (TV time-outs) and can be used to accelerate the timing of those breaks.

TV time-outs occur at the first stoppage after 16 minutes, 12 minutes, 8 minutes and 4 minutes pass in each half. The first full time-out called in the half will become the under-16 TV time-out, the next will become the under-12, the third the under-8 and the fourth the under-4 regardless of when during the half those time-outs are called. As a starting point, the under-16 TV time-out would be assigned to the home team, the under-12 to the visiting team, the under-8 to the home team, and the under-4 to the visiting team. How the time-outs are actually charged would change depending on which team calls time-outs in which order.

This way a team doesn't have to wait for four minutes to pass to use a full time-out.

For example, if no full time-out is called in the first four minutes of a half, a time-out will automatically be called at the next stoppage and charged to the home team. If the visiting team calls a full time-out at 14 minutes, it will becomes the under-12 time-out.

Got it? Good.

Further, if no full time-out is called from 13:59 to 8:01, the time-out called automatically at the next stoppage is charged to the home team. Then if the visiting team calls a full time-out at 6 minutes, it becomes the under-4 time-out. Each team has one full discretionary time-out to use during the last six minutes of the half.

Some other examples:

-Visiting team calls full time-out at 18:00 (becomes the under-16 and the under-12 is "re-assigned" to the home team); no full time-out called from 17:59 to 12:01 (time-out called automatically at next stoppage and charged to the home team); home team calls full time-out at 10:00 (becomes the under-8). No full time-out called from 7:59 to 4:01 (time-out automatically called at next stoppage and charged to the visiting team). Each team has one full discretionary time-out to use during the last four minutes of the half.

-Home team calls full time-out at 18:00 (becomes the under-16); visiting team calls full time-out at 17:00 (becomes the under-12); no full time-out called between 16:59 and 8:01 (time-out called automatically at next stoppage and charged to the home team); home team calls full time-out at 6:00 (is home team's only discretionary time-out of the half and it becomes the under-4). The visiting team has two full discretionary time-out to use during the last six minutes of the half.

-Visiting team calls full time-out at 18:00 (becomes the under-16 and the under-12 is re-assigned to the home team); visiting team calls full time-out at 14:00 (becomes the under-12 and the under-8 and the under-4 are re-assigned to the home team); visiting team calls full time-out at 10:00 (is visiting team's only discretionary time-out of the half and it becomes the under-8 -- the under-4 remains assigned to the home team); no full time-out called between 9:49 and 4:01 (time-out called automatically at next stoppage and charged to the home team). The home team has two full discretionary time-outs to use during the last four minutes of the half.

To keep games moving... mainly to compensate for the potential for longer games that may occur as a result of the new allocation of full time-outs and to minimize the number of time-outs called late in the game, the allotment of 20-second time-outs will be adjusted as follows: first half -- one per team; second half -- one per team. But any unused 20-second time-out in the first half may be carried over to the second half. In general, the calling of a 20-second time-out would not affect the timing of the TV time-outs.

The new rules will be clear once the games begin. It will, no doubt, be an adjustment for players, coaches, referees and fans, but, says Lieberman, "Down the line, the game will be better off."

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