Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Steps To A Better NBA

Bounce Bounce
So its preseason time in the NBA, where the Association is making a Nets-Celtics game shorter -- honestly, as short as you like on that one, Lords of Game -- and other notables are making the point that 82 games is too many, especially if it means we can possibly get away from the horror of back to back nights.

And, well, I get it. The NBA playoffs are so good, we want to make the regular season more like them, even though that is, of course, impossible. Since it's fairly rare for a good team to out and out miss the playoffs, and the advantage of higher seeds is fairly theoretical, there are no regular season pennant races, or bitter battles for the division and a bye week. The only people who really love the long regular season are fantasy honks, and outside of me, you don't know anyone who plays fantasy hoop. (Try it, by the way. Best fantasy game for a lot of reasons.)

But the problem with getting rid of 82 is what we wind up losing. Home games against every other team in the league -- and honestly, given how much better the West is than the East, I'm not sure that fans in a bunch of Eastern cities want to give up their annual shot to see Steph Curry or Kevin Durant in person. The NBA also doesn't have real schedule inequities, the way that the MLB and NFL does.

Instead, I'm going to suggest the following things that are never going to happen.... but might make for a far more intriguing regular season. And a whole lot less complaints about the length of the season.

1) Relegation for the worst six teams to the D-League. 

Want to end tanking forever, without monkeying with the draft lottery? Just put the worst six teams in the D-League every year, cutting the size of the league down to 24 clubs. (By the way, this also means that we need all of the D-League teams to become independent of parent teams, but that's pretty easy.) Then, add or move D-League teams to all of the towns that the Association has burned over the years -- Seattle, Vancouver, Kansas City, San Diego, Buffalo, Pittsburgh -- and resuscitate the names, and hey presto, we've got a reason to watch ball during the off-season. Along with real drama in the second half of the year. (Note that this also means we're promoting teams from the D-League every year, too. And yes, this also makes life in keeper NBA fantasy league far more intriguing, too. Along with the opportunity to be the first guy in America to start an NBA D-League fantasy league...)

2) Back to back games can't involve plane travel. 

If you are playing Brooklyn one night and the Knicks the next, your only real problem is getting your guys to not stay up all night in New York. If you are playing the Sixers and Warriors, and your guys are on a bus for a couple of hours, honestly, shouldn't be that big of a deal. Same deal with the Clips and Lakers, or Chicago and Milwaukee... but Portland and Golden State? Kind of a different deal. 

3) A point edge for teams with inequal rest.

Let's say the Raptors are making the Texas 3-step death trip of San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, with Dallas as the fourth game in five nights, and the Mavs haven't played in three days. That's a blowout waiting to happen, right? It sure is... so we simply agree that the Raps start the game with several points as a bonus just to even out the scales. Set the math nerds on this, and add a nice bit of drama where there was none. (Especially if cagey coaches start managing minutes the night before to try and back-load the starters. Nice bulletin board material, too.)

4) Minutes limits.

Let's face it; the Association would be better if more teams were like the Spurs, and the only way that's going to happen is if we make players 8 through 12 a lot more important than they are now. If every player had to be off at least 12 minutes a night, it really would not impact most games that much... but it would make some impact, and start helping more games get decided before the final minutes. It's the kind of small change that would have more impact than you might expect.

 5) Fewer timeouts, none back to back, and none in the opposing half court.

Nothing drives people off their meds faster than the common last minute experience of watching a team fail to inbound the ball, then call time and do it again... or call time when you are falling out of bounds. That's just a case of timeouts bailing out bad offense, and there's no reason why we should be doing that, especially in a league that's outlawed many previously allowed forms of defense. This just would make for better games, and shorter fourth quarters, which has to help overall fatigue levels.

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