How to Improve the NBA

I watch a lot of NBA basketball now that Celtics games are broadcast frequently. I’m loving it. Basketball is a great sport. It is not close to broken, but the professional game can be improved easily.

Make Games Shorter: Really, make more of the games actual play. Reduce stoppages of play, increase the flow and speed of the game. Reduce the boredom of watching one player make a free throw.

  1. Greatly reduce timeouts: I knew that the number had been reduced, I didn’t realize all the fine points that have reduced the end of game drag. The effect has been noticeable.
  2. Enforce “continuation” appropriately. There have been efforts along these lines, but it needs more.
  3. Greatly reduce “In the bonus” free throws: Presumably this rule is here to dissuade a team from continually committing fouls. This is evidenced by the fact that offensive fouls are excluded. But the threshold is set far too low. It should not be normal to be ‘in the bonus’ so much. Normal play is dissuaded, and the game is slowed down for no good reason. The current limits are on the fifth foul in a quarter, or the second foul in the final two minutes of any quarter. Possible tweaks are:
    • Increase the threshold to seventh foul or 3rd of final two minutes. In fact, the thresholds should be backed into. Look at the distribution of actual fouling within a quarter, and decide what percentage should be in the bonus, determine the thresholds from there.
    • Measure the limits by the half instead of the quarter. Who really cares if there are a lot of fouls in the 1st or 3rd quarter?
    • Remove the actual free throw. Simply award one free point and possession with a new 24-seconds.
  4. Enforce time limits on free throw shooting: The player has ten seconds from the time they get the ball at the line. This is frequently violated, not just by Dwight Howard. More importantly, players take their time to get set at the line. The other players take their time to get set up in their spots around the key. As a Tivo user, I can assure you that each free throw takes almost 30 seconds of real time. Set reasonable time limits for how long it should take, and enforce delay of game.
  5. Tweak the rules to reduce free throw shooting. As mentioned above, a foul could result in an automatic point and a fresh clock with possession. Or perhaps the player fouled can decide whether to take the free point and possession or revert back to taking free throws.

Get More Fans Watching

Reduce the Number of Playoff Games

All playoff series are best of seven. Groan. It makes the playoffs take forever, reducing interest. It makes the favorite more favorite, reducing upsets and interest. It increases the wear and tear on the players themselves, shortening their careers and keeping some of them from participating in the Olympics. Go back to first round is best of 3, second round is best of 5, and the last two are best of 7.

Televise Playoff Games at the Right Time of Day

It seems like a simple thing: Schedule televised games when most people are awake to watch them. But sports has a hard time with this. Take baseball. Last years World Series had every game scheduled after 8:00 p.m. Eastern. What little kid can stay up past 9:30 to watch the end of the games? It is no mystery to me that baseball is dying off. Among other reasons, no youth can watch the championship games. The same goes for NCAA. Monday night football used to start past 9:00 p.m.

Of course the difficulty is the timezones. A game that starts at 7:00 EST starts at 4:00 on the West Coast, before work gets out. There is no good solution. However, this only applies to weekdays. There is no good reason that a weekend game should ever be at an hour that cuts off either audience. The World Series had two weekend games, both schedule at 8:20 p.m.

Last years NBA finals had two games scheduled on weekends. Both of them, including Game 7, were scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Stop shooting yourself in the foot.

What is the single most watched television event every year? The Super Bowl. What time does it air? 6:30 EST. Learn from the best.

Reduce Tanking
The Philadelphia 76ers were just doing what the system encouraged them to do – deliberately lose games to get a better shot at a number one pick. It’s disgraceful. How can the league have a sports competition where one team tries to lose? Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a good answer to this. You got a good one, let me know.

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