Improving crunch time: Readers weigh in

A couple weeks ago, we asked you to help HoopIdea come up with some ways to make the last few minutes of NBA games more exciting and fast-paced. Henry Abbott proposed using FIBA's internationally adopted rules that restrict timeout opportunities to dead ball situation. You responded through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and regular ol’ email with more than 1,000 other suggestions. The ideas ranged from the reasonable to the patently absurd (these may be my favorites), but readers overwhelmingly focused on a few situations at the end of games that could use improvement: timeouts, free throws and replay.

While timeouts are handled by coaches, free throws by players and replays by referees, in each case there is a prolonged pause in the action. Here are some of the most sensible fixes that can make the closing moments of NBA games even better:


  • Julian Thomas emailed with the observation that many end-of-game timeouts are used primarily for substitutions or to advance the ball, “So why not take away a timeout or two from what is currently allotted and give teams a couple timeouts that do nothing but advance the ball?”

  • Many, many others echoed Emmanuel Espina, who wrote on Facebook that simply reducing the number of available timeouts per team in the final two minutes (the current rule allows for a maximum of three in the final two minutes).


  • The NBA’s replay-review system is awkward and far from comprehensive, just ask LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers. Often plays need to be reviewed because the officials on the court don’t have a good angle on the play, so any time there is a review all three officials meet to discuss what they saw then look at the monitor. This takes time and often delays and defuses the gratifying rush of late game action. Rick Clough explains it well in an email: “Have one official stationed in a booth for the entire game with access to multiple monitors and every camera angle. He or she could watch replays as quickly as we do at home (or faster) and could signal down to the sideline whether it is a good call or not. A dedicated replay official with continuous access to monitors could render judgment before the floor refs even get to the sidelines. Although I am in favor of instant replay, I am frequently appalled that the home viewer has usually seen two or three replays before the refs even get to the replay monitor. So inefficient.”

  • ESPN commenter lsd423 captured the sentiment of many commenters on Twitter and Facebook: “Why not have a ref booth of 2 retired refs to monitor close calls? It seems that they take too long sometimes under the hood to get the call right. Instead, have refs in a booth that monitor [the action in] real time." This certainly seems like a place where the NBA and broadcasters can work together to streamline the review process.


  • ESPN.com's Larry Coon: “Give teams the option to decline free throws and instead take the ball out of bounds.” The problem he’s addressing here is that teams can break the rules by fouling, and it works out to their advantage because the fouled team forfeits the opportunity to retain possession of the ball and can only score two points whereas the fouling team can score three points on the next possession. This incentivizes the flood of fouls and dreary procession of free throws at the end of games.

  • FIBA rules give shooters five seconds per foul shot, half the time allowed in the NBA. Jason Feldman thinks that’s a good start “From the time the official signals to the scorekeeper, there should be 30 seconds to get both free throws up. If the team shooting free throws cannot get it done in that time, they lose the opportunity to shoot and the ball. If the defending team is in violation, the team shooting is automatically awarded both points.”

  • How cool would this idea be? From Steve Hall, “to prevent fouling in the backcourt to stop a 3-pointer by a team down three when a team is shooting 2-FTs, the shooting team has the option of shooting one three-pointer instead.”

  • Dan Nejak suggests that “Any foul committed outside of the three-point line within 2 minutes left to play should translate into an automatic three free-throws (provided that the team is within the bonus).” On the surface, it looks like this would only further slow things down, but it would also remove the incentive to foul in order to prevent a game-tying three, one of the more exciting plays in all of basketball.

Have an idea of your own? Join the conversation!

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