Certain things in the NBA seem sacrosanct — the 82-game schedule, the 48-minute game. These are some of the most basic things the game has to offer.
The preseason is time to experiment and the league is experimenting away.
You might have noticed the Bobcats and Pistons playing an 11 a.m. tip off Wednesday as the league experiments with earlier tip times to drive up international viewers.
Knowing that today’s audience has a shorter attention span — squirrel! — the league is also considering something much more drastic and more fundamental to the game. That 48-minute game might not last much longer.
The NBA will conduct an experiment during Sunday’s Nets-Celtics game by running a 44-minute game (11-minute quarters), Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY reports.
“We have looked at everything that we do and are taking a fresh look at all the different things we do,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said. “One of the things that keeps coming up is our schedule and the length of our games. … Our coaches talked about it, and a lot of them seemed to be in favor of at least taking a look at it. We talked with our competition committee, and they were in favor of taking a look at it.”
Zillgitt writes the NBA is looking at this game and other experiments like this as a way to evaluate whether shortening the game will have a positive impact on player health, substitution patterns and then, ultimately, the result of the game.
The different between a 40-minute college or FIBA game and a 48-minute NBA game are pretty stark. Those extra four minutes really can separate teams. There are far fewer “upsets” in the NBA and oftentimes a close game can get blown open in the extra eight minutes.
At this point, it is just an experiment. The NBA does not appear to be planning on shortening games any time soon. The idea of doing it for player safety though irked a few players. They definitely sensed it was something else.
LeBron James has become the most outspoken on this issue, saying that if player safety were really the issue, the NBA would reduce back-to-backs and shorten the number of games in a season.
Michael Jordan has already scoffed at this notion from one of the game’s best players. The 82-game number is not the problem though, it is the veil of player safety in cutting games down to 44 minutes.
Really, it feels like the 44-minute game idea is a forced effort to speed things along and make sure the whole game is riveting rather than just those extra four minutes. It is a strange thing for the NBA to do. It would be better off reducing how coaches can call timeouts and when they can call timeouts (or working on quickening the pace of free throws at the end of games, especially) rather than shortening the length of the game.
It is still kind of hard to figure out exactly what the NBA is going for here.
But experiment away, I guess.