SALT LAKE CITY — For those who hate wasting time, the NBA is here to help. It is reducing the number of timeouts from 18 to 14, beginning next season. That’s a move in the right direction.
Short is the way to go these days.
Henceforth, each team will have seven timeouts. The old format that employed both 20-second and “full” 90-second timeouts has been replaced by 75-second pauses. Teams will be allowed to carry no more than four timeouts into the fourth quarter.
Also, there now can be only two timeouts apiece in the final three minutes.
Fewer timeouts equal faster games.
In other fan-friendly news, there will be more shooting, less strutting. Players who wander beyond the 3-point line in between free-throw attempts will be assessed a delay of game penalty.
But even though the games will go faster, the season won’t. Already the 2017-18 campaign lurks. This week, Commissioner Adam Silver said the season will begin Oct. 17. That’s nine days earlier than last year, and the earliest since an Oct. 10 tipoff in 1980. This year’s Finals ended June 12, though some years they have lasted until the last week of June.
Along with an early start comes earlier training camps. The TV news will be showing preseason highlights about the time the Utes play their first conference football game.
Yes, there can be too much of a good thing.
In some ways, this NBA season will be as entertaining as it has been for a long time. Considering the talent in the Western Conference, the playoff race will be fascinating.
Getting there will be exhausting.
Silver’s intent is sincere. He’s hoping to slow the epidemic of rest-related absences. Last year’s playoff run-up was a cartoon. ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight says players are resting earlier and more often than ever. By reducing the number of back-to-back games, players will be fresher and less likely to sit during the stretch run.
Although fewer games per week might be welcomed by players, it’s still an 82-game season. Familiarity breeds contempt, or at least disinterest. Exhibition, regular season and playoff games for 38 weeks are enough to make even Drake beg for an ending.
The obvious answer is to reduce the total number of games. Statistics show if the NBA played only three-fourths of its current schedule, the playoff seedings would remain virtually unchanged. But that would mean fewer televised games and ultimately lower salaries. Though Golden State coach Steve Kerr has expressed willingness to take a pay cut to shorten the season, that won't fly with most players.
For Kerr, that would mean a $1.25 million reduction, down to $3.75 million.
How nice for him.
The NBA is phenomenal, but like everything, it can be taken for granted. Spacing games is helpful, but will San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, for one, change his tricks? Unlikely.
If a few extra nights off help his players stay fresh, why not give them a few more?
Stars such as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are sitting out for no reason except rest. For fans who paid to see them, tough luck. The FiveThirtyEight article, published March 31, had Popovich far ahead of all coaches in resting players. He cited fatigue as an excuse 113 times in under three seasons.
The commissioner’s plan is a nice effort, but not a final solution, which he admits. The only answer seems to be playing fewer games and dealing with the economic fallout. Otherwise, coaches will continue citing things such as “gastric distress” and fatigue as an alibi. Better-rested teams will still have a playoff advantage.
So get ready for a “Gone with the Wind” length season. And don’t expect to see the stars every day during the stretch run, even with the changes. As seasons get longer, vacations get shorter.
Which still sounds like a good reason to still take extra days off here and there.