Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Commissioner McCallum

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.

14 comments on “Commissioner McCallum

  1. BrianCronin

    I think only one 30 second time-out is a bit too much, but I would TOTALLY support making all the timeouts in the last two (heck, why not five?) minutes become 30 second time-outs.

    Because they really don’t need the extra time. It is just a matter of moving the ball to half court and saying the play.

  2. KnickerBlogger Post author

    Brian,

    I agree with making all the time outs in the last 5 minutes into 30 second time outs. However for 46 minutes the players have to bring the ball up & run a play without having to huddle around the coach for instruction and they score just fine. Why for the last 2 minutes do we have to coddle them and give them the ball at half court for a set play?

    Imagine a basketball league where for the entire game the other team gets the ball moved to half court for a set play after every score. That would be a real boring league no? That’s essentially what we’re doing with the end of game time outs.

    It takes a PG what 4 seconds to get the ball across court? I don’t see why we have to eliminate this. No other sport makes it easier to score and changes it’s rules so radically at the end of a game. Why do it in the NBA?

  3. robinred

    Long-time reader; first-time poster. Laker fan–neutral about the Knicks. The quality of the site is excellent–both the writers and the comments. I wanted to comment on this:

    “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.”

    I have mixed feelings about this. I can certainly see the reasoning; OTOH, I think it is the job of each team to win its division, and I do think there is some value to the geographic alignment–travel being part of that along with rivalries. While I would have likely felt differently were I a Mavericks fan, my gut reaction to the whole Dallas seeding thing was “Tough shit. They couldn’t finish ahead of the Spurs, so screw ‘em.” Plus, since 8 teams in the conference make the playoffs, you knew that Dallas would get a shot at SA in a best-of-7 anyway if they deserved it. It’s not like they got sent home while Denver got to go to the playoffs–but even if that had happened, well, beat the Spurs.

    A possible problem with what you suggest is sort of like what they have in baseball now. If you leave the division schedule in place, but seed totally based on conference standings, this could perhaps give an advantage to a team that goes, say 52-30, in a weak division and finishes second as opposed to team that wins a tough, balanced division at 51-31. In ANY playoff format, there will be inequities of some kind.

    If I were commissioner, I would do something that will never, ever happen for obvious reasons: cut the season to about 68 games and put four teams in the playoffs per conference, eight total. I think people would respect the NBA’s regular season and playoffs a lot more. Sure, junkies watch every round and every game, but I have heard any number of casual fans say the season is too long and the playoffs are endless. I also think the players would be fresher, more focused, and you would, ultimately, have a better product. That will never happen, obviously, but I think they should AT LEAST cut the first round back best-of-five.

    I would also experiment with slightly increasing the size of the court, to match the increased size of the players.

  4. KnickerBlogger Post author

    RobinRed: Great comment & thanks for the compliment. I can see what you mean, but do we need for the Lakers to get shafted before you change your tune?

    I like your idea of shrinking the playoffs. Long time readers will know of my disdain for the first round of the playoffs. If I were the commissioner with absolute rule I would have some kind of play-in-tournament for the playoffs. In other words I would have seeds 1-6 as normal, but then I’d have 7-10 play a single game elimination. The winners of those would travel to face the 1st & 2nd seed.

    Or I’d just shrink the first round to 5 games again, or make it best of 3 all at the home team’s arena. But then again I don’t have to deal with unhappy owners whining over the loss of revenue by shrinking the playoffs. It’s a shame, everyone knows it’d make for better entertainment, but the Almighty Dollar will never let it come true.

  5. Graham A

    I agree that something needs to be done about the last 2 minutes, and I’m glad more people are talking about it. How about this: put a larger cap on the number of timeouts in the last two minutes, say two (maybe three) but also stipulate that if you’re using a timeout to move the ball to half-court, that’s done immediately. That is, you can either use the timeout to call a huddle and go over the play OR you can move the ball to half court. That way, coaches can still move the ball to half court, but play is only stopped very briefly.

    I think going to 8 total teams in the playoffs is a bit radical, but switching to 12 with first round byes (sp?) sounds a lot more feasible. I’d also like to see 5 game series not only in the first round, but also the second. Sixteen teams out of 30 is pretty ridiculous, esp after 82 regular season games.

  6. BrianCronin

    “I agree with making all the time outs in the last 5 minutes into 30 second time outs. However for 46 minutes the players have to bring the ball up & run a play without having to huddle around the coach for instruction and they score just fine. Why for the last 2 minutes do we have to coddle them and give them the ball at half court for a set play? ”

    But they DO get the ball at half court for a set play after they take a time out.

    It just isn’t as big of a deal early on as it is later on in the game.

    The only rule change at the end of the game that I can think of (that would affect how long the game takes) is that the officials are supposed to be more lax in enforcing substitutions at the end of the game, to give more leeway to teams making changes at the end of the game.

    Otherwise, the end of the game is called the same way, the teams just choose to use their time outs at that point in the game.

    I think reducing it to 30 second timeouts is a nice start, and probably just non radical enough for the league to actually consider.

    As for playoff system, I love the idea of seeding based on record. Winning a division can get you IN to the playoffs, which I think should be as significant of an advantage as it is.

  7. BrianCronin

    So, what’s the news on Jackie Butler?!?!

    I must know if the Knicks will match!!!!

  8. BrianCronin

    I just saw what the offer was.

    Three years, seven million.

    Damn.

    That is SUCH a reasonable price for Butler, but it very well might be seen as too much of a committment for the Knicks.

    Please oh please oh please let the Knicks match that. The payroll is eleventy zillion dollars ALREADY, so what’s another $2.34 million a year?

  9. Miika

    As for rule changes:

    I absolutely agree on limiting the timeouts in the last two minutes. What’s really gained from the timeouts, anyways?! God forbid the players actually have to think out there. Besides, plays that are called in the huddle are constantly broken and almost never run correctly because opposing coaches can set their defense. The timeouts give neither team an advantage – they just waste time and break up the flow of the game, making it unbearable to watch (especially if you are actually at the game). Coaches would hate to relinquish their control and greedy Stern would never give up the advertising dollars involved, but from a pure fan enjoyment perspective it’s imperative.

    The second change I’d love to make is to limit the number of charging calls. What happened to the part of the charging rule stating the the defensive player actually has to have position?! In my opinion, charges should only be called when offensive players are clearly out of control or defensive players have position for a full second.

    I’m sure we’re one only one LeBron on DWade injury away from the rule being interpreted differently. Besides, why make it so easy to get to the basket (with the highly, almost arbitrarily enforced handchecking rules) if you’re going to call a charge on a defender who is leaning in a spot for .01 seconds? These days it just seems like the charge bails out too many defenders who can’t stay with their man or can’t block their shot.

    As for Butler: It would be rediculous for the Knicks not to match. He’d have the most reasonable multi-year contract on the whole roster. Curry and James are both prone to injury and health issues. And, Butler is better than both of them, anyway.

  10. BrianCronin

    I disagree that the timeout doesn’t give you an advantage.

    How many games have been won after having the ball inbounced at midcourt with a second or less?

    Not a LOT, but enough that the loss of timeouts at that point would be killer.

    Now, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t limit the amount of timeouts anyways. Just saying that I think timeouts ARE very valuable.

  11. RobG

    A little late to the discussion, but having watched NBA games for over 40 years, I think the most serious abuse of a well-paced, exciting game is the ‘unintentional’ intentional foul to put the opposing team on the line to stop the clock and hopefully get a Ben Wallace type to shoot the free throws. How about enforcing the intentional foul rule, or, build in a penalty for late-game fouling, ie. the 3 chances to make 2 that used to be part of the NBA rules?

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