Many of the incidents of contact between players and photographers are around the basket area, so we felt it made sense to increase the open area between the baskets and the first photographer to four feet. —Rod Thorn
The NBA is expanding the area that must be clear behind the basket and cutting the number of photographers along the baseline in an effort to improve player safety.
The new regulations, calling for an extra foot of open space on both sides of the basket stanchion, were sent to teams Tuesday by league president of operations Rod Thorn and executive vice president of team marketing and business operations Amy Brooks in a memo that was obtained by The Associated Press.
Thorn says clearing the congestion behind the playing area was planned even before Indiana's Paul George broke his right leg when he crashed into the stanchion last month during a USA Basketball exhibition game.
"The conversations about this topic preceded Paul's injury by several years," Thorn said. "As a matter of fact, at our league meetings in July we informed our teams this was the direction we were going. But of course when an injury occurs like the one to Paul, it reaffirms the changes we have made and the need to continue to evaluate our policies."
The "escape lanes," the unoccupied area on either side of the stanchion to the closest photographer spot, will increase from 3 to 4 feet.
Only 20 camera positions, 10 on each baseline, will remain, down from 24 last season and 40 during the 2010-11 regular season. Each baseline can have six photo spots on one side of the basket and four on the other, and dance teams or other entertainers cannot be stationed along the baseline.
"We have been studying this issue consistently over the last four years and these are just the latest adjustments to make the baselines an even safer area for our players, our team attendants and the photographers," Thorn said. "Many of the incidents of contact between players and photographers are around the basket area, so we felt it made sense to increase the open area between the baskets and the first photographer to four feet."
Players have often been at risk of crashing into a camera when tumbling out of bounds behind the basket. The NBA experimented with limiting photography spots during last season's playoffs before deciding to make those changes permanent and mandating the bigger escape lanes.
"We will continue to examine this to ensure the safety of our players while at the same time allowing for the networks and media to properly capture images from our games," Thorn said. "We feel we have balanced those needs very well but will continue to review our processes throughout the season."