News Wire: June 2007

From the June 25th Issue:

The ratings for the Spurs' NBA Finals sweep suggest otherwise, but former NBA assistant coach Tom Newell beleives there are people who want to watch fundamentally sound, team-based basketball.  That's why last Saturday in Seattle, Newell staged a game with rims raised to 11 feet.  The idea:  Foot-higher baskets would cut down on dunking and three-pointers, leading to more passing.  Says Newell, who called in 20 college and overseas players.  "The game has been distorted so players don't use skills other than jumping."


Seattle Times sports columnist Jerry Brewer analyzes the "For the Love of the Game" exposition...

To be a purist now, you have to be a futurist. To show people the right way, you have to accept they'll first consider it wrong.

Newell scared the dunks right out of basketball with his higher rims, and it was boring at first glance. To be honest, it was boring at second and third and fourth glance, too. But after thinking it over, the purpose of this day outshined my pre-programmed beliefs.

Players who had practiced together for about 10 hours were sharing the ball. Fans were cheering passes. Big men were getting the ball during an exhibition game! It took only one hand to count the number of bad shots.

Yes, the dunk was missed. At halftime, I was hoping Nate Robinson and Josh Smith would magically appear and put on an impromptu dunk contest at 11 feet. It didn't happen. Oh, well. At least players weren't tossing up foolish fadeaway jumpers all game.

"If you did see any fadeaways, they were short," joked forward Ryan Rourke, a Bothell native who scored 11 points.

When asked if the height of the goal made the players take better shots, Rourke said: "You don't second guess yourself as you take shots, but it's in the back of your mind. You're more focused on getting good looks. I don't think players were shooting the ball just to shoot it."

It's weird watching 6-foot-8 players not be able to elevate and dunk. You start thinking it's gimmick basketball. But upon reflection, you realize the game was never meant for great athletes to cheat it.

That's the problem with United States hoops right now. The U.S. doesn't thrive in international competition, even with NBA stars, because it values individual brilliance over crafty team play.

For the last few years, those who love American basketball have pondered one question: How do we change?

Read the full story here and additional commentary in Jerry's blog.  Jerry originally started to write his column about how he missed the dunk.  He eventually concluded "I really think raising the goal to 11-feet is a good idea that I'd like to see more of."

Bob Condotta's article in Sunday's Seattle Times article complained about the lack of drama of the game, but does discuss the quick adjustment required to the raised rim...

[UW Men's Basketball Coach Lorenzo] Romar was curious enough to shoot around himself for a while and said, "If you practice long enough, it's not that big of a change. You could adjust to it if you are a shooter. If you are not a shooter, it's going to become more evident that you are not a shooter.

"I think the shots around the basket require more of an adjustment. People say it takes the athlete out of the game, but I disagree. I think if you are an athlete, you are still going to be faster and quicker to the ball than other guys."

The game's stats yielded some mixed results. Newell said he thought the rule changes would mean more passing and teamwork to get the ball inside.

Former Husky Brandon Burmeister, a member of the Black team, said that did indeed occur. "There was more of an emphasis to get it in there," he said.


"It's definitely been an interesting experience," Burmeister said. "I think we'd have to see some NBA players test it out over a longer period of time. I think if you experiment with them, it would be a better gauge if this is the right thing to do."

Read the full article here...

From the Everett Herald...

SEATTLE - Can an extra foot save basketball?   Tom Newell thinks so.

Newell, a former NBA and WNBA assistant coach, doesn't like what he sees happening to the game he loves, which explains why on Saturday a game was being played at Hec Edmundson Pavilion with the hoops raised from 10 to 11 feet.

"We're in a crisis situation right now in North America with basketball," said Newell, the son of Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell. "It's not a fun game to watch, I don't think."

Newell's answer was to stage a game, dubbed "For the Love of the Game," with modified rules that would put an emphasis on team play and fundamentals.


The game, which was played mostly by former college players, was not radically different from a normal basketball game, but it did produce a lot of what Newell was hoping for.

"I really enjoyed watching my team play today because they played the correct way," said former UCLA coach Jim Harrick, who coached the Gold team. "They shared the ball, they passed the ball, they hit the open man, they got good open looks at the basket."

Harrick, who wears all the basketball credibility he'll ever need on his left hand in the form of the NCAA championship ring he won at UCLA in 1995, thinks an 11-foot hoop is worth considering.

"Every year I've ever been in the game, guys have gotten bigger, faster and stronger," he said. "I don't see them lengthening or widening the floor. The logical thing is to raise the basket. I don't think that high school and college will do that, but I think this will open the professional league's eyes to the point where they may experiment with it and give it some serious thought."


"I thought it was awesome," said the Gold team's Brayden Billbe, a 6-foot-10 forward who played at Mercer Island High School and American University. "We hadn't played together before and everyone was out there passing the ball and getting open shots. No one was trying to show off for the cameras. I loved it, I absolutely loved it."

Billbe, who finished with a game-high 20 points and 14 rebounds, might want to consider campaigning for the 11-foot hoop to become more common.

"I'm definitely for it," he said.


During the game, fans used hand held devices made by Quizdom to answer questions that appeared on the jumbotron.

Of the approximately 850 participants, 65 percent said the NBA should raise the hoops to 11 feet, and 68 percent said men's college and professional basketball should consider moving the basket up.

"This will happen again, I will predict that," said Newell. "I think this experiment will happen again."

Sunday's Tacoma News Tribune says that the "11-foot rim eliminates dunks, puts emphasis on fundamentals..."

Tom Newell took a step forward in spreading his gospel of a return to basketball fundamentals Saturday afternoon at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Newell - a former NBA assistant and son of former big-man coach Pete Newell - organized a basketball exhibition game played with 11-foot rims by current and former college players to focus on what Newell considers an erosion of fundamentals.

He believes the modern emphasis on dunking and outside shooting has resulted in basketball straying from the way the game's inventor, James Naismith, intended it to be.

"We are in a crisis situation in North America right now with basketball," Newell said. "It's not a fun game to watch, I don't think. ... I really think television has diluted the value of the game."


Newell hopes the exhibition sparks renewed interest in taking a serious look at raising the hoops.

Seattle Pacific graduate and Enumclaw native Ton Binetti said it's still basketball.

"I think as a whole the game of basketball is an athletic game, and it's still going to favor the more athletic player," Binetti said. "But I think at 11 feet it's a much more skilled game, especially for the big men."

Read the full story here... reports on "For the Love of the Game"...

 If Tom Newell is right, fans got a look at the future of the NBA yesterday at Hec Edmuson Pavilion on the UW campus.

Under the guidance of the former Sonics assistant coach, two teams of former college players, mostly with Seattle ties, played a game of basketball. That wasn't unusual. The rules were, most noticeably because both baskets were raised an additional foot off the floor to 11 feet. In addition, the three-point line did not kick in until the fourth quarter, and dunks were strictly banned - not that they would have been common with the 11-foot hoop.

To Jim Harrick, who coached the victorious Gold Team to a 90-60 blowout win over Yakama Sun Kings Coach Paul Woolpert's Black Team, the results were what Newell and company were hoping for: A purer brand of basketball that emphasized team play over one-on-one action.

"I think the game was played the way the game is supposed to be played," said Harrick, who coached UCLA to the 1995 NCAA Championship in Seattle and now is coaching in the NBA Development League. "I liked the way my team played today."

For the most part, that the basket had been raised would not have been obvious to an onlooker unfamiliar with the purpose of the exposition (so called by Newell instead of an exhibition because his intent was to prove a point about the game). Players, who Newell estimated had 8-10 hours of practice working with the 11-foot hoops, were for the most part able to adapt to the height. There were more misses short of the basket than usual - especially once fatigue began to become a factor - but few airballs.

"I really was impressed with the overall success adapting and adjusting," said Newell.

"I don't think with a higher rim the game changed that much," added Harrick. 

Read the full article here...

Note to the  Sonics and Storm:  From our interactive voting at the game, 72% of fans said it was "important" or "very important" to them to have professional basketball in Seattle.

The below article was published nationwide describing the "For the Love of the Game" basketball exhibition with 11-foot hoops.  You might have seen it on ESPN, Yahoo Sports, MSN, or your local newspaper.

SEATTLE (AP) -- Brayden Billbe caught the pass on the block. He drop-stepped and turned to dunk, just as he usually would.

Nope, not this time. Not with the basket a foot higher.

"All of a sudden, I'm like, 'Oh, no.' So I flip it up there and it rolls off the rim," Billbe said. "I felt like an idiot."

There were a few of those moments on Saturday during an exhibition basketball game featuring 11-foot rims. Organized by former NBA assistant Tom Newell -- son of former coach and acclaimed big-man instructor Pete Newell -- the exhibition surely won't be remembered for the quality of play, but perhaps for sparking a change.

"I think this will open the professional league's eyes, where they may experiment with it, give it a serious look," said Jim Harrick, the former UCLA coach who was coaching one of the teams.

For the record, Saturday's exhibition ended with a 90-60 victory for the "gold" team. Billbe, a 6-foot-11 center who played at American University, scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

But the goal for Newell was to examine how the game was different with the taller rims. Was there more passing and spacing? Was teamwork at more of a premium and less of a focus on individual play? Was a challenge presented to the players, all of which had some college experience, and could they adapt?

The answer seemed to be a resounding yes.


Full article is available here.

In Michael Hiestand's column on June 15th, he proposes some ideas for TV.  He also mentions "For the Love of the Game" which mentions the Qwizdom interactive remotes available to observers.

If you think 21st-century basketball has outgrown the 10-foot height of the baskets, you don't have to just imagine how raising baskets would change play. Saturday, you'll see it.

Ex-college players will square off in Seattle in an exhibition using 11-foot rims that will be carried live on Fox Sports Northwest, a regional cable network in about 3.2 million TV households, as well as online on

Fan response will be instantaneous. About 1,000 fans on hand at the University of Washington's arena will be asked 65 questions during the game -- "Do you miss dunks?" -- and will answer via handheld devices. Online, viewers can also answer the questions. The results will be flashed immediately on FSN and online.

The game was organized by Tom Newell, who helped coach NBA teams, on the theory that raised rims might elevate play.

An article in today's Seattle Times previews the game.  Players and coaches are excited as they face the new challenge of raised hoops.

"Just walking in the gym, it just looks massive," Binetti said Tuesday as he glanced up at a rim 11 feet above the court at Edmundson Pavilion.

Earlier that day, University of Washington athletic department personnel used 1-foot wood platforms to raise the standards for an exhibition game Saturday.

Tom Newell, a former Sonics assistant coach and now co-director of Family SportsLife Today, is staging the exhibition. He has titled it, "For the Love of the Game," to show basketball might be better-played with an 11-foot hoop.

Newell thinks it will decrease dunking and the emphasis on individual play and increase teamwork and passing. A few other rules will also be tweaked, such as not allowing three-point shots until the fourth quarter.

Tipoff is Saturday at 1 p.m. and admission is free, though a canned-food donation for Northwest Harvest is requested. The game will air live on FSN and KJR (950 AM).

Newell has been planning the event for months but finally saw the hoops go up Tuesday morning.

"I feel like an 11-year-old," Newell said as the work was completed.


The players, mostly former college players with local ties -- current NBA players aren't allowed to participate because of league rules -- are curious to see what unfolds. Except for basketball shoes, a few meals from sponsors, and some exposure, the players are volunteering their time.

Read the full story here...

A story in Thursday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer provides some background on history on the "For the Love of the Game" exposition...

"Most people are unaware of the origins of the 10-foot hoop," Newell said. "The reason why (James) Naismith put the first peach baskets at 10 feet is because that's how high the overhang in the gym he first played the game was. If it were at 11 feet, that's how high they would have been. It was totally arbitrary."

Newell's brainchild (which he calls an "exposition game, because it's not an exhibition -- there's a point I'm trying to prove") was the product of a childhood memory, and sprung from the mind of a man who has spent a lifetime around the game.


Newell hopes his game can be a springboard to better basketball. He believes that far too many players rely on natural ability and that a move to higher rims would force players to adjust by practicing more on basics.

"No one practices anymore," Newell said. "They play way too many games and don't get a chance to work on fundamentals. This would force them to get back in the gym and practice."

His Bellevue-based Web site, Family Sports Life Today, organized the event and secured funding from several sponsors. He personally selected the rosters for the game, contacting players he felt would be best suited for the conditions. He got ex-UCLA coach Jim Harrick and former Sonics coach Bob Hill to serve as coaches (Hill pulled out because of family commitments and was replaced by Paul Woolpert, coach of the CBA's Yakama Sun Kings).

Read the full story here...

Seattle's online newspaper Crosscut has a front page story today on "For the Love of the Game" basketball exhibition. 

Early this week a dozen-odd basketball players got together here and shot at standard backboards, deliberately missing on the high side by about a foot. They were practicing for Saturday afternoon, June 16, when, at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion, they'll play an exhibition game using what some would call heresy and others would call high time: an 11-foot rim instead of the traditional 10-footer.

The Big Game, as it could accurately be called, was dreamed up among the three principals of Family Sports Life Today, a group devoted to quality coaching and, since January, to staging a public experiment about the efficacy of raising the bar, so to speak, for men's college and pro basketball.

Tom Newell, director of the group, said Tuesday, June 12, that he remains open-minded as to whether (as many have suggested during an era of larger, stronger, springier basketball players) the rim should be raised. He said the goal, so to speak, is simply to have players and spectators participate in the spectacle and decide for themselves. This will be enabled by live coverage of the 1 p.m. event on Fox Sports Northwest, with sports-talk radio KJR-AM (950) also airing the action. Admission is free, though Newell would like attendees to bring non-perishable food items for Northwest Harvest.

See the full article here

Fox Sports Northwest has announced that they will be televising our "For the Love of the Game" basketball exhibition with 11-foot hoops. 

On Saturday, June 16th at 1pm FSN will broadcast live, an exhibition to demonstrate how the game of basketball would be affected by modifying the existing standards and rules. The event titled "For the Love of the Game" will feature hoops raised from 10 to 11 feet, lengthening of the shot clock from 24 to 30 seconds, and removal of the 3 point line. A group of basketball veterans including former Supersonic center Alton Lister, past NBA/WNBA coach Tom Newell, son of legendary coach Pete Newell, and head coach Bob Hill will be participants in the event at the Bank of America Arena.

'1 am excited to be a part of this historical event," says Hill. "The timing couldn't be better as the game should look at this experiment and consider all the information that can be learned from it for future developments."

FSN's Brian Davis will call the action along with various color analysts that will help gain the audience's reaction throughout the event. FSN will also bring you statistics and analysis gathered in a unique way during the exhibition which includes the use of a handheld interactive device for those in attendance and an online voting website for those watching on FSN.

FSN Northwest is the cable home of the Seattle Mariners, Seattle SuperSonics, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Storm, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, Oregon State Beavers and Gonzaga Bulldogs. The region reaches more than 3.4 million homes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. FSN reaches more than 82 million homes through its 20 regional sports channels, and serves as the only supplier of national, regional and local sports programming.

Admission to the event is free, but a suggested donation of canned food to benefit the Northwest Harvest Food Bank of Seattle. The exhibition will also be replayed on Monday June 18th at 12pm on FSN.

Find out on Saturday, June 16th.