Five Fan-Friendly Rule Changes to Make the NBA Better

Did you know at one time the game of baseball allowed batters to request a high or low pitch? Sure, that was a long time ago, but imagine if the rule never changed…

“Excuse me Mr. Sosa. I know you’re busy making sure the corks in your bat are properly in place and your neck has completely disappeared due to those “supplements” you’re taking, but could you tell me if you prefer the ball to be letter-high or just above the knees?”

In football, the forward pass was actually illegal for a long time. Originally, you couldn’t even run the ball forward. You could only kick it. Hence the name, “football.”

“Yeah, Mahomes, it’s great that you can throw the ball 75 yards in the air without looking, but how far can you kick it?”

Before 1969, hockey goaltenders didn’t wear masks! This would only make sense if they were using Nerf pucks, but they weren’t. The only explanation possible is sheer insanity.

“No, no. You’re the goaltender. Stand right there in front of the net. Mr. Charra—yeah the 6’9″ Slovakian dude—he’s going to line up a slap shot from about 15 feet away at around 106 mph. Your job is to stop it with your teeth…The ambulance will be waiting.”

The point is this: Games change all the time; sometimes for the better; other times for the worse (some would justifiably argue that the NFL has over-adjudicated itself). Humans change too. Luckily, hockey players didn’t look like Zdeno Charra when goalies were asked to play without masks. Baseball players certainly didn’t like Sammy Sosa when they could select the height of their pitch. Actually, Sammy Sosa didn’t like Sammy Sosa before he found those “supplements.”

It’s Time for Change in the NBA

What does all this have to do with the NBA?

It’s time for the game to evolve. I know the game has come a long way since Dr. James Naismith first put the peach baskets in place at the YMCA of Springfield, MA. But the time has come to make some changes.

Anybody who watches the NBA on a regular basis can surely see that the talent and sheer physical awesomeness of the players is beginning to overwhelm the rules of the game in a lot of ways. Therefore, Adam Silver and the NBA owners need to consider ways to make the game more entertaining for the fans. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? The fans?

The league doesn’t need to do anything super drastic. It doesn’t need to put the hoops on motorized stations that rotate and slide back and forth, and it doesn’t need to install constantly relocating trap doors in the floor. Although, those ideas would definitely be fun to watch. Nonetheless, every game must evolve at certain points, and the following five rules would go a long way to making basketball even better, for real.

Rule Change #1: Decrease the Shot Clock

Honestly, twenty-four seconds for an NBA team is about twenty-two-and-a-half seconds longer than most of them need to get the ball to the rim. I’m not suggesting anything too crazy here, but what about 18 seconds?

We don’t really need to see the point guard dribble at the top of the key and pass the ball back and forth with his center as everybody else hovers around the three-point line or occasionally makes a cut to the hoop. Often, a team can endure a battle for a loose ball, somehow get it back, and still have 15 seconds on the clock to make a play. That’s unacceptable. Carelessness should be addressed with urgency or penalty.

If eighteen seconds sounds like too much of a drop, let’s talk about at least decreasing the shot clock to twenty. That’s plenty of time for some of the world’s best athletes who cover twenty feet of court space with one Euro-step to get off a quality shot.

Rule Change #2: Five and Fly

The NCAA already knows this, but for some reason, the NBA refuses to acquiesce to the obvious. Six fouls is too many for an NBA player to be allowed. If you really want to discourage “bully ball” and encourage offenses to drive to the basket with more athletic freedom and creativity, switch the number of times a defender can just grab an offensive player with both arms and stop the ball from going anywhere from six to five.

By doing this, you’ll also force franchises to build better benches and develop borderline talent more effectively. Today’s game allows most teams to have two or three players that are basically roster filler. You and your buddies can sit on an NBA bench just as easily as the other nine guys on the Brooklyn Nets.

Stop the roster filler from uglying up the sport in “garbage time,” by making teams actually develop deeper bench players into viable options for playing basketball, just in case somebody who matters actually fouls out and does so with more than twenty seconds left in the game.

Rule Change #3: Smaller Rims (Seriously)

These days, Luka, Steph, Trae, and just about any other sub-seven-footer (and even many of those) can tee it up from thirty-five feet away without batting an eye. LeBron doesn’t even need to watch it go in the hoop (flashback to supposed “no-look” three from January 12).

Wake up call NBA fans…It’s too easy for these guys to make shots! Why don’t we shrink the rim by even a half-inch. It doesn’t need to be anything major, but just enough to make guys stop taking forty-footers like they’re bunnies.

Honestly, why do players bother with anything other than a three-pointer at all anymore? It used to be that lining up a shot from more than a foot beyond the arc was a “hero ball” move by a selfish jerk. In today’s game, anything past half-court is fair game. It’s no wonder coaches are preaching “If you have the shot, I don’t care where you are, take it.”

The talent of today’s best shooters is just too damned good for the size of the hoop. Case in point: Antoine Walker who was far from being a sharp shooter was once asked why he shot so many threes? His answer: “Because there are no fours.”

While watching these sharp shooters is impressive, it’s not nearly as entertaining as watching a fast-paced passing game leading to a driving dunk, lay-in, or even a put-back in somebody’s face. Mid-range game? Pointless. Who is going to pull-up from 18 feet when they can take a step-back and make a three while everyone on the bench shouts, “Lay-up!”

Just like baseball had to stop letting batters request the height of their pitch, basketball has to stop making the rim as wide as the ocean for people who are already enormously gifted with eye-hand coordination.

Rule Change #4: Instant Replay Sucks (In Most Situations)

Can we stop with the ridiculous thought of using replay to look at personal fouls? Whether it’s out of pride, sheer stubbornness, or utter stupidity, NBA officials just don’t like to overrule themselves when calling or not calling a personal foul. So, coaches, the next time your player waves his hand in the air for you to issue a challenge, claim hysterical blindness if necessary; just don’t grant their wish and actually call for a challenge that will be denied.

Don’t get me wrong; replay has its place in basketball when it comes to shot clock violations, three-pointers, out of bounds calls, and deciding whether or not a shot was released before time expires. It has no place, however, deciding whether or not the defensive player had established his position in time to draw a charging violation. Or, whether or not a foul was flagrant. Ugh!

How many fans will sit through the process of watching an NBA official ceremoniously walk to the side of the court and watch the play on television over and over again, only to determine no change to their original call? It’s an absurdly boring situation to ask fans to endure.

Mr. Silver, every time that happens, you should be able to hear the collective “clicking” of millions of television remotes all over the country tuning to a different channel while the officials wastes everyone’s time. Yes, occasionally a bad call is going to decide a game or two, but at this point, it’s obvious that replay isn’t going to change that anyway.

Rule Change #5: What about a Point System?

Admittedly, this one is a little “outside the box”…and has no chance of ever actually happening (as well as the other four suggested changes, most likely). But, what if the NBA used points—like the NHL—instead of just wins? The NBA would do it a bit differently though. Instead, the league could award one point for winning each quarter and three points for winning the game.

Why points? The most common critical statement of the NBA is, “Let me know when there’s five minutes left in the game, because that’s all that matters.” Even the most hardcore fan would have to admit that there’s not much point in watching the first half of a basketball game.

For now, if a team is up 28-20 at the end of the first quarter, nobody gives a s**t because that lead is going swap sides back-and-forth a million times, and there will be several ebbs and flows throughout the game. None of the lead changes or swings in momentum will matter until…the last five minutes, when all of a sudden time is a factor. If a team is down by eight points after the first quarter, half, or even the end of the third quarter, it just doesn’t matter until its crunch time.

By awarding a point for each quarter, the league would add a new dimension of interest, strategy, and excitement. The wild swings in momentum of most NBA games would become much more meaningful because they could mean the difference of a critical point or two in the standings.

As long as the league weighs the victory of the entire game accordingly with three points, they would guarantee that the winner will have more points than the loser of the game. After all, the winner would have to win at least one quarter of the game, giving them four total points, or more.

Not that Crazy

If these ideas sound a little crazy to you, don’t forget, the three-point line itself had people saying it was a ridiculous idea at one time. But that was forty years ago, and about 40 million shots ago (and that’s just accounting for Antoine Walker). At some point, someone also had to decide that metal rims with nets were a better idea than peach baskets.

The bottom line is the game needs to evolve. It’s time. As a small note for closing, would taking away a timeout or two again be the worst idea?

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