Suggestions for making NBA games less crushingly boring

"Curling is electrifying in comparison"

By Salon Staff

Published June 23, 2000 7:33PM (EDT)

I hate this game
BY GARY KAUFMAN (06/20/00)

Gary Kaufman, in his rant about pro basketball, compares the "white knuckle thrill ride" of a close hockey game to the parade of free throws that sometimes come at the end of NBA games.

He obviously hasn't seen much hockey lately. NHL hockey, particularly during the playoffs, is about as dull as watching paint dry: The puck bounces back and forth between the blue lines, while the officials blithely look away as anyone with any talent is held, hooked or tackled, all in the name of "letting them play." The deterioration of play in the NBA and the NHL has the same causes though -- a watering down of the overall talent level due to overexpansion, and the refusal of the league to enforce the damn rules. Last time I checked, palming the ball, moving picks and lowering your shoulder and knocking your opponent down on your way to the basket were all still violations, but you'd never know it by watching this years NBA Finals.

-- Scott Shepherd

Finally someone who gets it! Kudos to Gary Kaufman for recognizing that most boring 25 minutes in all of sports are the last five clock-minutes of a pro basketball game, interrupted by incessant time-outs, gratuitous fouls, and chicken-hearted attempts to run out the clock. Nothing compares to it: Curling is electrifying in comparison, snooker is heart-stopping, lawn-bowling is thrill-a-minute. The wonder is not that the NBA is losing viewership, the wonder is that so many have been willing to sit through such uninteresting, predictable and unsportmanlike tedium for so long.

-- John Appling

I couldn't agree more that the NBA has become a totally unwatchable, meaningless sport. But Kaufman doesn't go far enough with his suggested changes. If we want to see the NBA as exciting to watch as the NHL, I suggest two simple changes to the game. One: Decrease the diameter of the basket by one-half inch. No more. Just enough to make scoring a basket a bit more of a challenge. Two: Change the format of the basic game to a best three-of-five-period match. The end of each period then becomes as exciting as the end of the game. A rout is mercifully short and a close game hangs on the outcome of the fifth period of play.

-- John Gilman

Get rid of the three-point line and do not reward teams for taking low-percentage shots; revoke the ban on zone defenses and let teams try to out-think dominant offensive players; extend the 24-second rule to at least 45 seconds and let teams set up plays beyond dribble-pass-shoot.

Give the fans a game between two well-coached teams stocked with players adept in all aspects of basketball (not just scoring) and I believe that they will come back.

-- Bob Burnham

Gary Kaufman is absolutely right when he notes that there is something terribly wrong with a system of rules that allows a team to gain a competitive advantage by fouling. It is one of the most maddening things about basketball. Kaufman misdiagnoses the disease, however, when he leaves out scoring as one of the biggest problems. In the NBA each team is expected to score each time they get the ball (the Clippers notwithstanding). The game is won and lost by how many times one team does not allow the other to score. Which makes basketball a defensive rather than an offensive game; and defense has long been the province of coaches, whom Kaufman rightly identifies as part of the problem. But until scoring becomes more difficult, the game will continue to be dominated by coaches and slam-dunking ball hogs (marquee players).

-- James McCrone

While he has some good (and some not-so-good) ideas about how to make the end of NBA games more exciting, Gary Kaufman was wrong about an existing rule: A player is not allowed to call timeout while in midair about to land out of bounds. This rule was instituted for this season, and was generally followed by officials, the Latrell Sprewell play at the end of Game 7 against the Heat notwithstanding.

His best idea is to limit timeouts -- allow each team two per half, and only one in the last three minutes.

-- Josh Bivens

How true that the endless stoppages and free throws at the conclusion of basketball games drain the matches of all their visceral excitement. Unfortunately, a reduced playoff scheme is troublesome, too. Yes, basketball playoffs as a whole should be shorter and have fewer games per series. But the truth is, basketball fans need to feel that their team -- as bad as it may be -- has at least a remote shot at a playoff spot. Otherwise, they'll simply tune out long before the regular season ends, leaving the NBA with even worse ratings than Major League Baseball.

-- Dave Dias

Salon Staff

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