Have Ball, Will Travel: Deron Williams

In this installment of Have Ball, Will Travel, we’ll take a closer look at Deron Williams’ half-court heave from last night’s game between the Jazz and Blazers, and wreck some dreams long the way. Roll the tape:

Sadly, Deron William’s buzzer-beater seems to be a clear-cut travel. He establishes his right foot as a pivot foot, pivots through two defenders, and then lifts his pivot foot to give him an illegal step-through. What’s odd is that the rulebook doesn’t explicitly say that this is a violation. Here’s the relevant passage:

If a player, with the ball in his possession, raises his pivot foot off the floor, he must pass or shoot before his pivot foot returns to the floor.

Deron technically shoots before his pivot returns to the floor, considering he’s stepping out of his pivot rather than jumping off of it. There really isn’t any clear language in the rulebook on this type of step-through, which takes us on a fun trip down the way of writer’s intent. Reading a rulebook shouldn’t be like constitutional law, but in this case, we have little choice. Technically, a player could go up for a jumper out of a pivot, and come back down with the ball so long as he lands on his non-pivot foot. However, such a play is — and should be — an obvious travel. It’s just not specifically outlined in the rulebook, and the wording used doesn’t expressly forbid it.

However, given the nature of this play and the specific advantage Deron gained by lifting his pivot and taking an additional step (Ed. note: gained advantage is how the rulebook determines traveling in other cases), it’s a violation of the intent of the rule, if not the rule itself.

EDIT: The esteemed John Schuhmann of NBA.com disagrees wholeheartedly with my assessment. If for some reason you’re not already following him on Twitter, you can read his comments @johnschuhmann (search @robmahoney for comments specific to this call). Schuhmann definitely has a valid point, but I still have a hard time letting go of this as walk. Let’s open the phones; I’m sticking by this one as a travel, but what do you think?

Seth Carstens