Crunch time in the NBA, when the most exciting, meaningful plays are likely to happen, has become quite the slog. With your help, HoopIdea is talking about some ways to make these last moments more fluid, exciting and fast-paced -- you know, like the rest of the game we love.
So how did we get to the point where coaches and players can call enough timeouts for the last two minutes to take a quarter of an hour? A look back at the evolution of timeout rules in the NBA tells us two things:
Timeout rules are far from fixed. In fact, the NBA has tweaked them relentlessly to create a better product.
After decades of extending the game, the league seems to be moving in the right direction by removing impediments to a viewer-friendly finish.
The evolution of an NBA timeout:
1891: Dr. James Naismith’s original rules do not include any mention of timeouts.
1949: Coaches are allowed to call timeouts. Previously, coaching was not allowed during games.
1974-1984: Advancing the ball to half court
1974-75: In the last two minutes of the game or overtime, no timeouts are allowed once the ball is inbounded until the ball is in the frontcourt.
1976-77: For an inbounds play for the last two minutes, the offensive team has the option of moving the ball to midcourt or taking it at the spot following a timeout.
1977-78: During the last two minutes of regulation or overtime, if a team requests a timeout immediately after getting possession, they shall have the option of putting the ball into play at midcourt or at the out-of-bounds spot.
1984-2001: Tweaking the 20-second timeout and end-of-game rules
1984-85: There is an increase in number of timeouts a team is allowed in overtime from two to three, regardless of the number of timeouts called or remaining during the regulation play or previous overtimes.
1994-95: The second or more of back-to-back timeouts when the ball is not inbounded will be limited to 45 seconds.
2000-01: Incorporating the media timeout, prolonging the finish
The number of timeouts per team per game increases to six from seven.
The number of fourth-period timeouts per team increases to three from four.
The number of timeouts per team during the last two minutes of the fourth period or last two minutes of an overtime period decreases from three to two.
Full timeouts in regulation and overtime are reduced from 100 to 60 seconds except for the mandatory media timeouts in the second and fourth period and the first two timeouts of each period, regardless of who calls them.
If neither team has taken a timeout in the second and fourth quarter when there is 8:59 remaining, there will be a mandatory timeout after the first dead ball.
In any period, if neither team has taken a timeout when there is 5:59 remaining, there will be a mandatory timeout after the first dead ball. Previously, mandatory timeouts were taken after dead balls after 9:59 in the second and fourth periods and after 6:59 in every period.
Following a change of possession (made basket, timeout, rebound) in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime, the offensive team can call a full or 20-second timeout and advance the ball to midcourt. Previously, the offensive team had to call a full timeout.
During 20-second timeouts in the last two minutes of the fourth period and/or any overtime period there are unlimited substitutions.
2006-present: Tweaking end-of-game rules and reducing number of timeouts
The head coach may request a timeout (20-second or full) at any time during a game as long as his team has possession of the ball or there is a suspension of play.
Number of timeouts per team are reduced to six (again) from seven. Teams can use no more than three timeouts in the fourth period and no more than two timeouts in the last two minutes of regulation, in addition to one 20-second timeout per half.
2007-08: To reduce the number of full timeouts at the end of games, if a team has two or three full timeouts remaining when the fourth period reaches the 2:00 mark, one of the timeouts becomes a 20-second timeout and the team retains only one full timeout. So if a team has not used its 20-second timeout for the second half, it then has two 20-second timeouts at its disposal.
CURRENT NBA SYNOPSIS
If a team has two or three regular timeouts remaining when the fourth period or overtime period reaches the 2:00 mark, those will change to one regular timeout and one 20-second timeout. (Thus, a team may never have more than one regular and two 20-second timeouts in the last two minutes of a game.)
Regular timeouts are 60 seconds in duration, except the first two timeouts in each period and the extra mandatory timeout in quarters 2 and 4, which are 100 seconds. (While that is the rule, these timeouts often take much longer in actual games.)
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