A timeout is a stoppage of play for a determined time duration. The NBA has 20 second and regular timeouts. Each team is entitled to one 20 second timeout per half and six regular timeouts per game (each team is limited to no more than three timeouts in the fourth period and no more than two timeouts in the last two minutes of regulation play).

A player can call a timeout when the ball is dead (if the ball is out of bounds or a player is shooting foul shots) or in the control of the team making the request. An offensive player can call a timeout if he is falling out of bounds or if he is double-teamed. A defensive player cannot request a timeout when the clock is running. There may be a suspension in play if a player is injured or bleeding.

During a timeout, players and coaches discuss strategy and use the break in play to rest. Often, timeouts are taken to stop the clock or to make substitutions. Teams may take a timeout to stop the momentum of the opponent or to adjust to the opponent's defense or offense.

Chris Webber
After his experience at Michigan, Chris Webber understands the importance of knowing when a team has used its final timeout.

Coming out of a timeout, basketball fans should look for changes in the offense and defense of each team. A good barometer of a coach's ability is how his team plays after a timeout. If his team can score on the first possession after a timeout, it demonstrates the coach's ability to recognize weaknesses in the opponent's defense and take advantage by calling a play that exploits this weakness.

When a game is close, the teams will use fouls and their remaining timeouts strategically to give themselves an advantage. When a team commits a foul that stops a basket from being scored, the hope is that the fouled player will not make his free throws. Even if the opponent makes the free throws, three pointers can be attempted to cut the deficit. By calling timeouts, teams can strategically plan plays aimed at scoring quickly (if the team is losing) or attempting to run down the clock (if a team is winning).

If a team calls a timeout when they have none left, the team will be assessed a technical foul and lose possession of the ball. The Sacramento Kings' Chris Webber knows this all too well. During the 1993 NCAA championship game, Webber attempted to call a timeout to set up a game winning shot; however, his Michigan Wolverine team had already used their final timeout. Michigan's opponent, the University of North Carolina, made both foul shots and retained possession of the ball to win the game. Though devastated by his costly mistake, Webber rebounded to become the top pick in the 1993 NBA draft and the 1993-94 NBA Rookie of the Year. Webber has formed a charitable organization appropriately named the Timeout Foundation.