Have Ball, Will Travel: Gerald Wallace

In this installment of  Have Ball, Will Travel, we’ll take a look at an odd play in which Gerald Wallace — on a cut to the basket — manages to get from the top of the key to the basket without using any of his two allotted steps.

Atlanta Hawks 92, Portland Trail Blazers 89; 4th, 9:45

Wallace was not whistled for a travel. It’s a correct no-call; although viewers often have an instinctive reaction to a player who covers as much ground as Wallace does in this play, you can see from the video replay that he never actually has the ball in his possession until he finally goes up for the layup. Kudos to the baseline official, who has nails Wallace’s bobble and actually signals it in order to explain the no-call.

For reference, here’s the relevant section of the traveling rule:

A player who receives the ball while he is progressing…may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.

Basic enough, but with an important clarification (emphasis mine):

The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after gaining control of the ball.

Interestingly, even if we count Wallace’s step beyond the top of the key as his gather step (which makes sense considering he’s only initially receiving the pass), he still doesn’t travel. Thanks to some long strides and an early launch point (he actually jumps up for his lay-in at the bottom of the free throw circle), Wallace’s slash through the paint is even legal on a hypothetical basis.

Seth Carstens