How to fix the NBA: Eliminate music, half court inbounds, terrible endings
I like football and I like hockey, so those were to improve games that I already enjoyed. This column is a little different.
I don’t like basketball. I’ve tried. I go to about one Phoenix Suns game per year, and my dislike of Los Angeles sports makes me tune in when the Suns play the Lakers.
But I don’t like the game. I don’t hate it, but I think there are few ways to make the game more watchable.
Stop playing music during the game. It’s the first step, and it’s a necessary step.
Visit a baseball, football or hockey game. Tell me how many times you hear music of any kind while the ball or puck is in play. It doesn’t happen. Basketball is the only sport where this kind of minor league action happens.
Does the NBA think so poorly of its product that it needs to water the game down with a Ke$ha song or a pipe organ serenading the fans? It shouldn’t, but it insists on it.
Another thing that has always bothered me when watching a basketball game is the placement of the ball after a timeout. Why does it go to half court?
I understand that basketball is the sport in which progressing the ball (or puck) down the playing surface is the least contested. But it should still have to happen.
You don’t get to call a timeout in football and move to the 50-yard line. Even suggesting that would be ludicrous, but in basketball it’s just accepted.
It seems like the sport is trying to create drama instead of letting it unfold naturally.
If a team gets scored on, it gets the ball under its own hoop and moves its way down the court to score. However long that progression takes, whether it's the full 24 seconds on the shot clock, or 10 seconds or even if the ball is passed from paint to paint, moving the ball is still part of the game.
But if a team gets scored on with time winding down, it can call a timeout and take away half the area it would otherwise need to cover because it hadn’t used all its timeouts yet.
Granted, teams don’t often play defense in the opponent’s half of the court, but the fact that they sometimes do means that there should be no way for players to bypass that defense without having to do anything except make a “T” shape with their hands.
Basketball is at its most exciting when someone hits a buzzer-beater to win the game. That play happens enough that the NBA doesn’t need to manufacture it by moving a team halfway down the court.
As exciting as buzzer-beaters are, NBA games that end in constant fouls and timeouts and free throws are the most boring endings in sports, and that includes soccer.
No one wants to see the last minute of game clock eat up 20 minutes of real time. And it almost never works for the team that is trailing anyway.
So here’s how we fix this mind-numbing exercise in futility: harsher punishments for intentional fouls.
If you foul a player in a way that the referee deems intentional with less than two minutes remaining in the game, you’re gone. You’ve used up your remaining fouls and you can no longer enter the game. And you’re only allowed to replace that one player who has fouled out, no one else.
Now it becomes more of a strategy for the team that is losing. If you want to foul intentionally, you have to pick and choose which players you’re willing to risk. And because you can’t sub players in, you have to find the balance between players you’re willing to lose to an automatic foul-out and players who can help you win once you get the ball back.
I’m not a basketball fan, and really, the three things that I mentioned are the main reasons why. I can’t stand a live game with the music playing. It really does take away from the arena experience. Then once I’m there, I get treated to some odd attempt at a sport where they spin the rules to make late-game excitement.
I want to like what the Suns are doing this year and I want to get behind my city’s basketball team. Jeff Hornacek is less of a human head coach and more the second coming of Phil Jackson while Goran Dragic is actually just Steve Nash in a Slovenian body suit.
I was there when the Suns wiped the floors with the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 22 and couldn’t believe it when they won again eight days later.
I really want to like basketball. But in its current format, I just can’t do it.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson