Even for a diehard — and we count ourselves among that growing group — the NBA regular season drags on forever.
Eighty-two games spread from late October to mid-April is simply too much basketball, as much as saying that pains my soul. Given how much the superstars rest and the existence of "schedule losses," one imagines even the players and coaches would agree the regular season is far from perfect.
So with the NFL, that 16-game-a-year behemoth, set to kick off its biggest game of the year, we decided to take a look at seven ways the NBA could improve its season — plus one tongue-in-cheek idea we'd honestly love to see.
Eliminate the 'Hack-A-Shaq'
No one wants to watch free throws.
From this point on, the rule is simple: if the officials determine you committed an intentional foul away from the ball not in the act of playing "normal" defense, the fouled team gets two shots and the ball — throughout all 48 minutes and overtime.
Basketball is a game of flow. We don't need strategy ruining that, no matter how wise it might be.
Gary A. VasquezGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Get rid of players fouling out
This one might seem insignificant, but we want to watch the very best players play as long as possible during games. Rather than having them be disqualified after a sixth foul, then, let's hand out a technical (yeah, I know, it's more free throws; whatever) for the sixth, seventh and all subsequent fouls from that point on.
That way, players won't have to sit for foul trouble, and they won't have to hit the showers early.
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Reduce the number of games
This is the biggest one — and the most complicated.
I'm not a financial wizard, so I won't begin to argue you can recoup all of the money both owners and players would lose with fewer games. I also believe there's a smart way to make a lot of that money even with fewer events, through increased revenue due to ad scarcity, new revenue streams like jersey sponsorships, and a fresh perspective on ticket sales.
After all, the NFL does pretty well for itself with just 16 games per team. The NBA could probably find an extremely profitable model centered on somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 games each season.
Benny SieuBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Increase the number of games between division opponents
While we're shaking up the schedule, can we all admit that balance is overrated? I'd prefer developing rivalries to making sure the Celtics play the Hawks three times every year just because that's the way we've always done it.
So here's my idea: five games each year against your division rivals; two against the other 11 teams in your conference; and two against all 16 teams in the other conference, for a grand total of 74 games a season.
That's a slight reduction from the current 82-game season (see the argument above), and if we spread those 74 games over a longer window during the year, we can in turn ...
Travel and lack of sleep combine to create awful basketball. We're paying to watch NBA stars play their very best, so why exactly are we okay with teams rushing from city to city like some kind of modern circus?
Stick to two big nights each week
Obviously a 70+-game season means you can't play every contest on just a couple of nights each week — but this spread of NBA national TV games to Sunday and to Saturday night and to "Fan Night" on Tuesdays needs to roll back immediately.
Wednesdays and Thursdays should be the tentpole nights for the Association, with an occasional Sunday marquee matchup thrown into the mix for good measure. And sorry, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns fans, but those national games should only feature the top matchups each week.
In fact, if we condense all of the juiciest potential games around Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the national broadcasts will have the freedom to flex out of awful games and into the very best with just a couple days notice.
Institute a regular-season, wrestling-style championship belt
The idea goes something like this: Whichever team wins the actual NBA championship (the one with the Larry O'Brien trophy and everything) starts the next season with the title belt. When they lose, they drop the regular-season belt to the team that beats them. That team then owns the regular-season title until they lose, and on and on it goes.
It doesn't matter if you're 4-40 headed into a matchup with the belt-holder; if you win, that prestigious championship is yours.
There's no real benefit to owning the title. You don't get draft picks or money or anything but bragging rights. Tracking the belt through the NBA would be a great distraction for fans in February and March, though.
BONUS IDEA: Bring Kobe Bryant back to the Los Angeles Lakers