Shorten the NBA Game? No Thanks

The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics will play a 44-minute preseason game this Sunday in order to test out a potential rule change that would shorten games by four minutes. The game will be played with four 11-minute quarters, as opposed to with the customary 12-minute periods, and with fewer mandatory timeouts. This model more closely resembles the game structure of briefer college and international basketball games.

NBA President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn said that this experiment will provide the league with “preliminary data” that will be used to take a closer look at the optimal duration of games.

First of all, let me just say that I’m glad this is happening during a preseason game and not in one that actually matters. I had a hard enough time watching the Nets and Heat play regular season games with nicknames on their jerseys last season.

The league needs to chill with the unnecessary innovation before we end up with guys shooting four-pointers from near mid-court in their new long-sleeve limited edition Christmas Day uniforms. Those would have a sizable McDonald’s logo on the front, by the way.

This shortened game trial is obviously not a huge deal, however, and the league has no plans to install this game format into regular season contests. Regardless, I’ve got a problem with it.

On the trivial side, 11 is a just too weird a number. It’d be like playing two 46 and a half minute halves in a soccer match.

Secondly, a change of this kind would mean less basketball, which is obviously not a basketball junkie’s preference and should not be the preference of the players. Oh, but it’s only four fewer minutes per game, some might say. Yeah, but that would add up to 328 fewer minutes played in a season, which equates to roughly seven games worth of playing time lost, according to

And I understand that fewer minutes mean less wear and tear on the bodies of superstars, which leads to more rested stars and perhaps more competitive games, but I’m not sold. This could instead cause coaches to leave their key players in the game for longer stretches and wear them just as before.

Ever since the 2011 NBA lockout that resulted in a 66-game season, team owners and even players have been intrigued by the possibility of a shorter season – one with fewer minutes’ restrictions on aging-veterans and fewer grueling games on back-to-back nights.

LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki have expressed their interest in a shorter season and in typical fashion, Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan fired back by basically questioning their love for the game. Jordan said he’d have played more after the season somewhere else if there had been fewer than 82 games.

I’m not quite as opposed to the idea of shortening the season as I am to shortening individual games, but I’m with MJ here and I’d like to leave things as they are.

The one redeeming quality of the shortened-game proposal is the prospect of fewer mandatory timeouts. I’m all for that. Maybe even take away a few timeouts from each team. Or here’s a novel concept, make 60-second timeouts actually last 60 seconds, not 3 and a half minutes for a dance routine.

Cutting into the approximately two and a half hour event that is an NBA game would be a positive – the league just needs to do so by axing some of the extracurricular activities. We don’t need three rounds of T-shirt cannons in the second half.

Finally, I’m all about comparisons and historical context – examining the stats of players from different eras and taking note of guys gunning for records that were set decades ago.

Shortening the game would birth a new era of the NBA, one whose rules would differ from eras past. This would include a slew of necessary asterisks, which would note that player A had this advantage in this category over player B because there were more minutes in a game back in the day.

The three-point line was added to the NBA game for the 1979-’80 season and changed the game irrevocably, leading to today’s three-point launching culture. It’s difficult to compare the stats of guys who played before and after the addition, which would again be the case here.

All in all, this just seems like a forced idea. Sunday’s game between the Nets and Celtics is nothing more than a trial run, and I get that, but I’d like to contribute to nipping this idea in the bud while I can.

Long live the 48-minute game on 94 feet of hardwood.

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