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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I promised I would put up my basketball rules changes for skewering, and here they are. I've only got six of them, but if you'd like to you can mentally add filler like sexing Mutombo, etc.

Here goes...

1. Drastically slash the number of timeouts each team is allotted.
I hate basketball timeouts, largely because each team is allotted approximately a mole of them. Coaches can use them willy-nilly and still end up at the end of the game with enough of them to forcibly beat my interest in the game out of me. The end of a close basketball game is a series that goes like so: possession, timeout, possession, timeout, timeout, possession, timeout... timeout, possession, timeout, shotgun blast annihilates television.

Wouldn't it be nice if a team that had just been scored upon and now faces a tied game or a one point deficit with ten seconds on the clock just had to play, and couldn't run back to coachy for a lolly and and an intricately detailed out-of-bounds play? Yes, goddammit. Yes.

Teams should be given a small number of timeouts that should last them the entire game. Three sounds right. Three timeouts per game gives a coach a mindbending decision over whether to try to halt an opponent's run with a timeout or to hoard it like it's platinum crack for the end of the game.

2. Only allow them in dead-ball situations.
If you're not going to do the nuclear thing, then at least stop allowing them when they want me want to stab stuff. Currently anyone in trouble with the ball, whether they're trapped on the sideline or airborne and heading into the second row, just calls a timeout to save the possession. Nobody likes it when there's about to be a big mess of bodies on the ground and the very real possibility of a decapitating elbow being thrown and the officials rob us of our bloodsport by indicating timeout. Teams should be rewarded for putting the ballhandler in a tenuous position, not sent to the bench for orange quarters and advertisements for TNT's latest miniseries.

3. Remove the incentive to foul at the end of a game!!!!!!!!(!)
The end of a six point basketball game is a shameful thing. The trailing team intentionally hacks the team that leads and sends them to the line hoping that they brick a free-throw or two and so they can rush down court and jack up a three. This process is repeated until your eyeballs melt like the Ark of the Covenant was just opened in front of you. The last two minutes take fifteen for no purpose at all.

Teams should never be rewarded for breaking the rules. This isn't the same as saying that no one should ever intentionally break the rules. It's unavoidable that sometimes that'll be preferable to the alternative--like a breakaway in hockey or a defensive end killing your quarterback in football. But at least in that situation the team committing the foul is still being penalized. A team trailing by four with twenty seconds left is actually benefiting from fouling, as they are allowed to cling to some faint hope of victory.

mgoblog's proposed solution is that when a non-shooting foul in the last two minutes would result in free throws, that team has the option of taking the ball out of bounds with a fresh shot clock and a five second time runoff. Problem solved, remainder of game completely unaffected.

4. Explore the possibilities of electronic officiating aids.
One of the things that drives me nuts about basketball is the refereeing. It's inconsistent, to put it kindly. When I'm watching a game it's a $&!%#@ing crime. Basketball officiating bothers me more than the officiating in any other sport because it seems orders of magnitude more incompetent. As hard as it is to believe, it probably isn't. The nature of basketball forces the referees into a more prominent position than other sports because they're asked to make extremely close decisions several times a minute.

Relieving the burden on the referees to make decisions in more cut-and-dried areas will hopefully improve the rest of the game as well. A couple of chips in a basketball and a system that can determine its position and trajectory could entirely remove referee's responsibility for out-of-bounds plays and goaltending calls, leaving them unfettered, able to really focus on ignoring Chauncey Billups getting the prison treatment from five different Heat players.

5. Call flops as blocking fouls.
mgoblog despises diving in all its forms unless TJ Hensick's doing it, in which case it is beautiful gamesmanship. And though Reggie Miller's retirement lessens the need for a change significantly, the diving that remains in the NBA should be penalized when it occurs, not merely ignored.

6. Adopt college rules about technicals.
A technical foul has very little bite in the NBA. One foul shot. Whoop-dee-freakin-doo. That's a major reason that NBA players and coaches spend the entire game mouthing off to officials. (Other major reason: they deserve it.) Making the technical count as a personal and giving two foul shots would at least make people like Rasheed Wallace think twice before going volcano-style--though in Wallace's case it probably wouldn't make much of an impact.

That's six changes that I think would vastly improve basketball. None of them are reminiscent of Rock 'n' Jock in the slightest. One deserves every excessive exclamation point I saw fit to bestow upon it. Fire away in the comments section if you like, you may get me to change my mind... but there's no way any more than two or three of those exclamation points are going anywhere. Word to the wise.