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Old 09-10-2013, 05:40 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Zach Lowe: the case for 40 minute games

The case for the 40-minute NBA game - Grantland

I'll just lay out the opening here. Use the link to get the full lengthy piece.

Games in the NBA have always been 48 minutes long. Other rules have come and gone — zone defenses, the 3-point shot, a ban on zone defenses, the shot clock, zone defenses again, the 82-game schedule — but game length has been sacred.

Those 48 minutes stretch longer than ever now, as the league and its television partners1 cooperate in accepting heaps of cash from advertisers willing to pay more and more for a slot during one of approximately 967 timeouts that interrupt any given nationally televised game. The games are too long. An NBA playoff game should not nudge up against Major League Baseball–level game times.

"Listen," says Jeff Van Gundy, the former head coach and current TV analyst. "There just shouldn't be three-hour NBA games." A three-hour NBA game goes against everything basketball is supposed to be — a fast-paced ballet of whirring athleticism, back-and-forth action, and fantastic players looping around the floor in coordinated geometric patterns.

Almost everyone associated with the league knows game lengths have gotten out of hand. Not everyone actually cares; multiple ownership sources suggested the only people concerned enough about game length to propose semi-radical solutions are those tasked with working the games in some capacity. But the league has telegraphed its concern. The NBA cracked down on pregame dance-and-handshake rituals last season, and two seasons ago it had in-game operators sound warning horns in order to hustle teams out of timeouts. The D-League over the last three seasons has discussed a bundle of proposals (and even implemented some) in hopes of containing games within a tidy two-hour window. A lot of these ideas centered on the unending stop-and-start of NBA/D-League crunch time, including a limit on substitutions and a FIBA-style rule that would ban live-ball timeouts. Every expansion of instant replay comes with the requisite platitudes about balancing accuracy with game flow.

Some proposals to streamline games are unrealistic, and others would take such tiny bites out of the problem as to be almost irrelevant unless enacted simultaneously with a dozen other jabs at the issue. Perhaps the most elegant solution is the simplest: shorten the games from 48 minutes to 40 minutes. Several sources around the league, both at the highest team levels and within the league office, say commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver has signaled a desire to at least discuss moving to 40-minute games. About two years ago, Silver informally polled all 30 league general managers on the notion of cutting overtime from five to three minutes, per several GMs who remember the poll.
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