Posted Sep 24 2011 11:40AM
We want basketball. We need basketball -- not in the strictest sense but for pure entertainment. Our sports world isn't better off with the NBA and the union fighting over money for nine or 10 months. It's a better world if the Lakers and Heat are fighting over the Lawrence O'Brien trophy in 10 months.
Yes, there's nothing to be gained if the NBA season doesn't start on time, or doesn't start at all. We'd all like for basketball to return. And yet, there are a few things about basketball that, perhaps, shouldn't return at all.
This is purely a selfish and subjective list, not sanctioned or necessarily supported by the NBA, but maybe you'd agree with a few. Or strongly disagree. Or have a few you'd like to add. Let's go:
The best-of-seven first round playoff series. This is one of the rare examples where more basketball isn't necessarily better. That's not to say some good and even great basketball often emerges from a best-of-seven -- Dallas vs. Portland and San Antonio-Memphis had moments last spring -- but the chances of an upset are greatly diminished. The old way was better. Best-of-five not only gives the smaller seed a chance -- Nuggets vs. Sonics, anyone? -- but also allows the strong teams to spare us the gruesome details and quickly swat away certain teams that are lucky to be alive, and play like it.
When the owners switched to the longer format, it was done with money (what else?) in mind. More games, more ticket sales, more exposure on TV, it all affected the bottom line in a positive way. But it also stretched the first round a bit too long. The fan suffers from first-round exhaustion when an April series goes two weeks. And it's hard to sustain interest when three and sometimes four days elapse between games. The playoffs will not suffer if the first round is squeezed. Again, the switch was done with the purpose of making money, not improving the game. Only one was accomplished.
Timeouts. By rule, each team is allowed only three full timeouts in the fourth quarter, and only two in the last two minutes of a game (not including a 20-second timeout). Conceivably, the game can stop six times in the final two minutes if both coaches squirrel away their timeouts.
And that's about four times too many.
There's nothing that ruins the ebb and flow and suspense of a close game than stoppages of play. It's annoying and agonizing for the fan. But most important, it takes players and coaches off the hook. The last two minutes of a game should be treated like a classroom exam. If you're taking an exam, do you get to raise your hand and ask the teacher for assistance? No. Then why should professional players get advice in the heat of battle? Why shouldn't they be forced to think for themselves?
If timeouts are so necessary to explain game situations and devise strategy, then what in the heck are players and coaches spending their time doing in practice five days a week?
There isn't a situation in basketball that the average professional player hasn't seen before. Not one. The average player has dribbled since the age of four. He should know what to do, and what not to do, with 12 seconds left and his team trailing or leading by a basket. Also, during practice, teams put themselves in all sorts of scenarios; why do they need a few timeouts to run through them again? Maybe in high school. Even college. Not the pros.
One timeout per team in the last two minutes. That's it. If the team isn't prepared, tough. Not only does a single timeout force players to react and think on the fly, it removes coaches from close games. And that's a good thing.
Charging calls. Amazingly, they're teaching grade-school kids how to draw charges these days. What they're really doing is teaching kids how to avoid playing defense. Because whenever a player is racing over to draw a charge, he's refusing to try for a steal, or block a shot, or alter a shot. He's taking a shortcut. He's looking for a way out. He's trying to get bailed out by the refs. He's looking to draw a charge because he either cannot or will not play defense.
This should be discouraged in the NBA, as strongly as possible.
The restricted semicircle under the basket was and is a decent attempt to force players to defend, but a weak one. Rather than extend the arc, it's probably better to instruct referees to be more unforgiving when it comes to calling offensive fouls and by extension, rewarding lazy defenders. The game won't suffer, the sky will not fall. The players will adapt and they will improve their defense.
The "bunny hop." Here's a hypothetical: Suppose a player, once he crossed midcourt unguarded, picked up his dribble, did a bunny hop and landed on two feet, then launched a 3-pointer from 40 feet. Would he get whistled for traveling? You bet your sweet Dominique Wilkins he would.
Then why doesn't he get called for traveling when he does the exact same move near the basket? Hmmmm.
Guess what? It's a travel no matter where the player takes one step, hops across the floor, then jumps and shoots. Call it. Every time.
Clock resetting. Have you ever seen the clock reset in the final seconds of the first quarter? No. Why is it reset only at the end of the fourth quarter? Double standard?
Yes, the purpose is to be Swiss accurate in the last few possessions. Especially if the ball travels out of bounds. But after a shot, resetting should be done when a team calls a timeout, not when the ball goes through the net or the split second a player grabs a rebound. Sometimes, a fraction of a second disappears between that and the timeout call. It's unfair to the other team when the clock resets with that fraction tacked on.
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