The NBA, like any sports league, makes a point of identifying and addressing common points of complaint. Next Sunday, they'll experiment with a 44-minute game between the Nets and Celtics as a potential way to allay concerns that 82 48-minute games constitute more basketball than players' legs and fans' eyes can handle.
This may be the simplest solution, but sports league rule changes are not about simplicity. The goal is not just to fix the problem, but to enrage people and create new problems.
With that in mind, here are five common complaints about the NBA and the most horrible ways to fix them.
PROBLEM: NBA games and regular seasons are too long
SOLUTION: "Simulate" option
It's the middle of the third quarter. The Nets are down 38 to the Celtics. Lionel Hollins is resting his veterans and letting the bench guys go through the motions until time runs out. The Celtics are just trying not to get hurt. The fans in the building want to beat the traffic, but feel obligated to get the most out of their ticket.
Do we really need to drag this out until 10:15 EST? NO.
At a point determined by the head referee, the game takes a timeout while fans vote on simulation, like in a video game. @NBA tweets out a poll: Would you like to simulate the rest of Celtics-Nets? Every fan gets one "yes" or "no" vote. If a majority choose to simulate, the circumstances of the game -- score, fouls, etc. -- are plugged into one of those Accuscore algorithms, which runs exactly one simulation and declares a winner.
Since the league would only turn to this option in extreme blowouts, the outcome would almost always favor the leading team, but odds dictate there would be a "comeback" every once in a while! Exciting!!!!
And yeah, maybe you could do this with a team's whole season somehow? Like, say, for the team in Philadelphia?
PROBLEM: Whistles interrupt the game. Free throws and video reviews are boring and mess with flow.
SOLUTION: Penalty Hour Brought To You By Kozy Shack Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Rice Pudding™
The Nets and Celtics are engaged in a thrilling back-and-forth, trading one exciting basket after another. Jerome Jordan drives in for a dunk to put Brooklyn ahead, but Boston's Erik Murphy hits him hard across the shoulders while he scores. A whistle blows. The game stops. That looked like a foul. But should the basket count? And was it a flagrant foul? Flagrant one or two?
Let's pause the game and watch replay to answer these questions, right? WRONG. Just keep playing.
With the addition of Penalty Hour Brought To You By Kozy Shack Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Rice Pudding™, the game is played without interruption. The refs just make note of possible fouls and other infractions as they happen, then worry about them later. Once the game is over, the refs huddle to watch several dozen replays, then assess fouls and discount baskets all at once. Then the endgame begins.
Let's say Brooklyn won regulation 130-129 (you better believe scores would be that high!). Nets fans are thrilled! They are wrong to be thrilled. Replay shows the Nets committed way more fouls than the Celtics did, and now Brooklyn gets to shoot just 11 free throws while Boston gets 27. Oh, also, Willie Reed traveled before that one layup, so that doesn't count. And Jorge Gutierrez's foot was out-of-bounds before he threw that alley-oop, so that doesn't count either.
On the other hand, it turns out Boston's Tyler Zeller touched the rim when blocking that shot, so give the Nets back two points! Oh, and that was indeed a flagrant two on Murphy before, so he gets retroactively ejected and nothing he did from that point forward counts. And on top of Jordan's free throws for the flagrant, the Nets retroactively get possession back, which totally changes the course of the game. The refs assess how things would have unfolded in this alternate universe in which the game continued without Erik Murphy, using their best judgment of the teams' tendencies to assign points and imagine further infractions.
It's called Penalty Hour, but it actually takes about four hours. At the end, the Celtics win 19 to negative 6 thanks to their surplus of post-game free throws and the refs manually spraining Markel Brown's ankle because they decided that would have happened. It's a rough ending, but at least the fans got to see 48 uninterrupted minutes of basketball!
PROBLEM: The block/charge rule is too vague and leads to too much flopping
SOLUTION: Basketball Court
Who can really tell which player committed a foul when two guys collide and both of them exaggerate the contact? Well, there's a perfect parallel in the real world: auto accidents. All the NBA needs to do is appropriate that protocol.
Scenario: Boston's Christian Watford barrels into Brooklyn's Cory Jefferson right around the restricted area. Was it a block or a charge?
First, Watford and Jefferson must exchange IDs and insurance information. They then file an accident report with the referee. Each player hires an attorney, who will do his or her best to reach a settlement. If no settlement can be reached, a tribunal is arranged at mid-court. Basketball Court is in session! Fans are screened for impartiality, then selected into a jury. Evidence is presented, testimonies are heard and the tribunal makes a block/charge ruling.
In some instances, the tribunal may decide on partial block/charge calls and penalize players with fractions of fouls. Play resumes after a verdict is reached, which may take several weeks.
PROBLEM: The NBA wants to put ads on jerseys, which would be offensive
SOLUTION: Native advertising with player microphones
Many NBA players are already pitchmen. We already have the technology to stick microphones on players while they're on the court. Thus, instead of displaying ads on jerseys, the NBA will have TV broadcasts cut to "Mic'd Up" segments in which players can be heard discussing brands.
For example, one clip shows the Nets' Marquis Teague hustling to close out on a James Young jumper. The jumper goes in. We hear Teague grunting, then we hear him turn to Young and say "That shot was sweet! Almost as sweet as Kozy Shack Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free Rice Pudding, available at Walgreens!"
Teague makes some appreciative slurping sounds into the microphone. Who needs ads on jerseys?
PROBLEM: The draft lottery encourages tanking
SOLUTION: The Whammy
If you know you're not going to compete for a playoff spot, you might as well lose games on purpose to increase the odds of getting a top pick. But what if there's a Whammy? In the game show Press Your Luck, the Whammy is a fuzzy little gremlin who steals all your money and prizes if you're unlucky enough to land on his spot.
In the NBA, the Whammy is represented by a portion of the ping-pong balls in the lottery machine. Exactly one lottery team each year has the misfortune of getting the Whammy instead of a prime draft pick. The team is forced to sign the Whammy to a rookie contract and give him regular minutes in the rotation.
At eight inches tall and .27 pounds, the Whammy is a horribly ineffective basketball player. He also undermines the coach's authority, stirs discord between his teammates and leaks critical and damning information to the media.
So go ahead and tank. You might get yourself a top pick ... but you're also increasing your Whammy odds.
You're welcome, NBA.