Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A radical idea for basketball

I've been hearing a lot of talk recently about ways to "speed up" the game of basketball, especially college basketball. Television viewership is one the decline and many attribute it to the slow pace of the game. Personally I think it's a bunch of hooey.

The real reason why viewership down is the so-called "one-and-done" rule in college basketball. The average viewer doesn't watch a basketball team to see a particular team, unless, of course, you're a diehard follower of that particular team. They tune in to see their favorite players in action. I think more people are going to watch an Oklahoma City Thunder game so see Russell Westbrook in action than they will because they are rooting for the Thunder. I watch a lot of Golden State games because I get a big kick out of watching Seth Curry and Klay Thompson effortlessly hit those three pointers from ridiculous distances and sometimes in seemingly impossible situations. When he was healthy, I watched the Laker games to see Kobe in action. He always amazed me at least once per game.

But it took time for the reputations of Russell and Seth and Klay and Kobe to develop. I never went out of my way to watch them during their rookie seasons because I didn't have enough information on them yet to compel me to watch.

The college game, on the other hand, is composed entirely of "rookies" or upperclassman like Rick Kaminsky of Wisconsin no one outside the immediate Big 10 community knows anything about until tournament time.

The powers-that-be have come up with two solutions to speed make the college game more inviting to viewers. Shorten the 35-second shot clock down to, if not at the NBA level of 24 seconds, at least to 30 seconds. If the college game wants to do that, it's fine with me although I don't think it will have a significant impact. I watched a whole lot of college basketball during the NCAA tournament and I would be willing to bet that in at least 90 percent of the total possessions, the team with the ball took a shot before 30 seconds expired on the 35-second shot clock. Another solution is to move what I call the charge arc -- that semi-circle painted just outside the basket that determines whether a charging foul should be called -- a foot further out in the court. I can't see how that would have any impact whatsoever on the pace of the game, but if someone out there would like to try to convince me, go for it.

Now, if these guys were really serious about not only quickening the pace of the game but in making the overall product better they could take the simple step of eliminating the single most boring play in all of basketball -- namely, the free throw.

Nothing, not a single thing other than a time-out or the end of a period brings the pace of a basketball game to a grinding halt faster than having everyone stop playing in order to form two lines while one player stands 15 feet from the basket and takes one or two shots at the dang thing. End the practice right now. Get rid of it.

Instead, if a team is fouled, that team is awarded a single point as well as the ball out of bounds at the closest point to where the foul occurred. If a team is fouled in the last two minutes of a period, they are awarded two points and the ball out of bounds. A flagrant foul results in two points; a flagrant foul in the last two minutes is three.

Think of all the other positive ways this would impact the game. It would practically eliminate the "Hack-a-Shaq" philosophy of some coaches who will purposely foul poor free-throw shooters on the opposing team. Instead, these coaches are going to have to teach their players how to defend properly, and I see nothing wrong with that. It would also mean that the last two minutes of each game don't last a seeming eternity where all we see is a constant parade of players to the free  throw line.

Now I know this idea won't get any traction because it is radical even though it makes perfect sense and has no downsides except to those who "respect the purity of the original game." But basketball came up with the radical idea of the 3-point play. Remember, the NBA only adopted the 3-point play at the beginning of the 1979 basketball season and college basketball only set a standard 3-point arc of 20 feet, 9 inches for all NCAA teams in time for the 2008-09 season.

So change can come and now is the time to change the rules on personal fouls.

No comments: