CNNSI.com ran a series of pieces about what their writers would do if they were granted for one day the commissioner’s job for each of the sports. The NFL article, written by Peter King, has some intriguing ideas. The first is to keep the current playoff structure even if the league expands, while another talks about making long field goals worth 4 points. King creates a more exciting television broadcast by using microphones on players and officials, and allows for players to wear whatever number they chose for a charitable fee. While I don’t agree with all of King’s proposals, they are all made in attempt to make the game better for the players & fans.
Unfortunately CNNSI.com?s NBA article disappoints greatly. Jack McCallum was given the task, and half of his suggestions are nonsense. One of them is to “police the anthem” (his words, not mine). McCallum would cut off the microphone if a performer?s song lasts more than 2 minutes. While I?m not a flag waving fervent patriot, I find having the national anthem cut in order to speed up a sports event un-patriotic. Additionally Jack wants to curtail the player introductions as well. So a pregame ceremony in Commissioner McCallum?s league would be half a national anthem and straight off to the tip without announcing the starters. Sounds fun!
McCallum also tackles the hard issues of special seating for the player’s wives, and front row seating for the press. I know how important these issues are, because every day I receive at least 10 emails from concerned KncikerBlogger.Net readers on each. Personally it’s tough watching the Knicks from my television without knowing if La Tasha Marbury and Peter Vecsey are comfortable seeing the game in person.
Although most of McCallum’s ideas are useless, he does get it right with two of them. The first is Jack’s idea of cheap admission and affordable concessions for retro nights. The league could call it fan appreciation nights and it would make for great public relations to have them coincide with nationally aired games. McCallum also hits a winner with his NBDL-NBA double headers, another fan friendly idea that would also gain some notoriety for the budding NBA minor league.
However if I were given the commissioner?s job for a day I think I could come up with better ideas than wondering where the press sits and how long the anthem lasts. The first thing I would do is change the playoff format. Let the divisions stay the way they are now in order to give the teams an easier travel schedule during the season. Nonetheless when the playoffs arrive, throw out the divisions and just use the conference standings to seed the playoff teams. This way we can eliminate the fiasco we had last year with the Nuggets getting a home field advantage in the first round and the Spurs facing the Mavs in the second round.
The game itself could use at least one major change as well. More than 2 years ago I said the NBA’s main weakness was:
“The last two minutes take too long… I can?t stand what a basketball game turns into for the last few minutes. To use a simile, a basketball game is like you being the only person driving on the highway until you get within a few blocks of your destination. At that point you hit the worst bumper-to-bumper traffic you?ve ever seen. A basketball game goes smoothly for about 45 minutes, and then grinds to a halt with fouls and time outs.”
My solution? Only one 30-second time out per team allowed in the final two minutes. While NBA coaches would hate the loss of control, anyone who has seen the last few minutes of an exciting NBA game grind to a halt would be thrilled. Let every close ending be like a 2 minute drill in the NFL. The losing team will have to bring the ball up the court rapidly instead of relying on a post time out ball reset. Players will have to think quickly on their feet about end game strategies like whether to foul, or whether to take a 2 or 3 point shot. Keeping the time outs to only 30 seconds will eliminate “we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsor” buzz kills right when the action gets thick. Too often the tension mounts at the end of the game only to be lost when a time out is called and you have to sit through a few commercials.
Given enough time (a preseason of testing and waiting a year before implementation), coaches will come up with strategies and get players to practice 2 minute drills just like the NFL does. NBA players will come to understand the nuances of the final minutes, and fans won’t have to wait through 15 minutes of watching the back end of the coach?s clipboard and time out commercials for the final 2 minutes of the game to play out.
The next thing I’d modify is the stat keeping. Over a year ago I wrote a two part series on five stats the NBA should keep. The most important of these are the defensive shooting stats, which would give us a better idea of how valuable players are on the other end of the court. Team and individual possessions would help with equalizing statistics due to pace. Meanwhile ?Charges Taken? and ?Possessions Saved? would help fans track the blue collar workers of the NBA.
Finally I would take a global outlook on the game. Baseball tried to copy soccer?s World Cup with little success, but it doesn’t mean the NBA shouldn’t try an international venture. The lack of interest in Baseball’s World Cup is due to the sport not having a truly international audience. Outside of a select few countries from the Americas and Eastern Asia, baseball isn’t very popular. On the other hand basketball has leagues all around the world, and a look at the number of countries represented by NBA players shows how truly global the game has become.
Since the Olympics have pretty much become the World Cup of Basketball, there is no reason to try and emulate that. Instead the NBA should try to emulate the UEFA Champions League, and attempt to enter the Euroleague basketball tournament. Putting up one of our best clubs against the best Europe has to offer would probably tip the scales back in our direction after the last disastrous showing of team USA.
While it sounds like an expensive proposition, I think the increase of NBA jerseys sold in Europe might help soften the financial blow. If basketball can continue to gain in global popularity, how important would it be for the U.S. to reclaim it’s dominance? Teams that regularly do well on the international stage would gain prestige and wealth. Imagine the Spurs or Mavs reaping the rewards that a Real Madrid or Manchester United does from being one of the top soccer clubs in the world. If the NBA is unable to compete in the Euroleague, then another possibility might be to send the league’s champs for 2 weeks in Europe to face off against the top 2 Euroleague teams. A European vacation seems like a great reward for winning the NBA?s biggest prize, and they should be allowed to bring their families along (the kids should be done with school by mid- June!) Now that?s priceless public relations. Doing this will keep the NBA as the world?s premiere basketball league.