The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets will play a 44-minute contest on Sunday as part of an NBA experiment to see the effects of a shortened game, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The league's competition committee has discussed ways to move games along more quickly and now wants to test one key idea out.
"Let's get some empirical evidence regarding this and take a fresh look at it," NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn told USA Today.
The two teams agreed to play the shortened game, according to the report. For now, this is a one-time experiment, though it may be tested again in the NBA Development League or in future preseason games.
The NBA has used a 48-minute game throughout its history, but has considered ways to lessen the average length of contests both to engage fans more easily and to preserve the wear and tear of its players. One idea championed recently is to have players shoot just one free throw that's worth whatever the specific call dictates -- three points if fouled on a shot from downtown, two points if it's a normal shooting foul, one point if it's an and-1 -- rather than multiple free throws each worth one point, according to ESPN. Limiting the actual minutes in a game, though, is both a simpler and more radical long-term solution.
The specific Nets-Celtics game will have 11-minute quarters and have a different TV timeout structure. Per USA Today:
Each quarter will have two mandatory timeouts at the first dead ball under 6:59 and the first dead ball under 2:59, and the game will have two fewer mandatory timeouts than a normal game. In a 48-minute game, there are three mandatory timeouts in the second and fourth quarters, and the first mandatory timeout comes at the first dead ball under 5:59.
An average game took two hours and 15 minutes to complete last season, though that number shoots up in the playoffs. The hope may be to narrow that gap down to two hours, which most closely mirrors soccer matches.
But if the move causes too many other problems with substitution patterns, player rhythm and the like, it will surely be scrapped. One concern: this will actually increase the gap between the best and worst teams because it allows stars to play a larger percentage of the game.