If The NBA Wants To Speed Up The Game By Eliminating Free Throws, We Have A Suggestion For Them
There's an intriguing and unexpected article by Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN on a proposal that NBA higher-ups were kicking around towards the end of last season: Changing the free throw system to a single shot per foul. One shot would be worth two points (or, in the case of fouls on threes, three points), and then we could get back to the business of basketball without having to wait roughly 15 seconds between shots.
According to rough calculations, this change would cut roughly five minutes of run time off an NBA game, on average ("47 attempts per game would be whittled down to about 26"). Rockets GM Daryl Morey was a big proponent of the concept, but the proposal didn't gain much traction after noted innovator and D-League president Dan Reed left for a job at Facebook.
It's a thought-provoking idea, and Arnovitz does a good job of weighing the potential pros and cons and dismissing things like changes in free throw percentage over the course of a season. But as a time-saving maneuver, it would have been far too radical to be taken seriously.
And is anyone actually complaining about the amount of time it takes for a basketball game to be played? Among the four major sports, it has the second-best pacing (nothing beats hockey's frenetic scrambling; baseball and football are turtle-slow by comparison), with the exception of the last two minutes of close games.
AH YES: The last two minutes of close games, otherwise known as "a fucking eternity in real life." How many mere seconds have been dragged out into minutes because of the intentional foul method employed by most teams when down by, say, less than 10 points, but more than 3. It's absolutely infuriating, and rarely ends with a team actually closing the gap enough to take back the game. And when they do, it feels cheap and shitty.
If the NBA wants to speed up games, how about taking away the ability for teams to employ Hack-A-Shaq, or Hack-A-Drummond, or Hack-Anyone-Who-Has-The-Ball. If you're down by 10 points with 35 seconds left, guess what -- you're going to lose. You should have played better for the other 47 minutes and 25 seconds.
There have been plenty of suggestions for how to handle the intentional foul. I'm a fan of Tom Ziller's "Make it optional" idea -- basically, the fouled team can decide whether or not to take the free throws, or to inbound the ball again. While a repeated series of inbound plays isn't the most interesting way for a game to end, watching a dude take a 15-foot set shot while everyone else stands around with their fingers crossed isn't any better. In fact, it sucks. There's no drama, just wishful thinking on both sides.
Basketball moves briskly for 95 percent of the game, only for play to grind to a half in the final stretch. If the NBA wants to deal with a time issue, how about they tackle this first?
Photo via Getty
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