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Tweaking the NBA Rules: Six Ideas to Make The League Even Better

Joey Crawford and Ron Olesiak Discuss Our Ideas

Joey Crawford and Ron Olesiak Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1. Charges Drawn Count as Steals

Although I make derisive remarks about the practice of flopping later in this article, I truly admire the player who is willing to take an actual charge. It’s all about timing, skill, strategy and self-sacrifice and it’s high time charges drawn started showing up in the box score. They should be counted as steals. The defensive player does the necessary footwork and positioning to force the opposing offensive player into a play where the defensive player’s team gains control of the ball. That sounds like a steal to me.

Additionally, the defensive player has put the opponent in further foul trouble and potentially drawn free throws, so in many ways the charge drawn can be a significantly more valuable defensive contribution than a traditional steal. Stats never tell the whole story of a performance, but their purpose is an attempt to quantify a player’s contributions. Steals are generally intended to convey defensive performance and it’s about time that drawing an offensive foul was included in this numerical summation.

2. Deemphasized Free-Throw Shooting in Endgame Situations

I’m a fan of the free throw and excellent free-throw shooters. Free-throw shooting plays an integral role in every NBA game, and I think it should. It’s a valid and important basketball skill and a fitting retribution for various rules infractions. That said, I’m tired of seeing the last two minutes of games come down to 30 real-time minutes of stop-and-go play comprised entirely of intentional fouls and free throw attempts. If a diehard NBA apologist like myself finds these sequences anticlimactic, monotonous and off-putting then you can be sure the casual fan is also turned off by the whole ordeal.

I’ve thought about a number of ways to deal with this issue over the years, but none have seemed perfectly satisfactory. Here’s the best solution I can come up with: when a team commits an intentional foul, as determined by the referee, within the last 1:30 of a game, the team with the ball receives one free-throw attempt and maintains possession of the ball. This would completely remove the incentive to essentially turn a basketball game into a game of horse where there’s only one spot on the floor you can shoot from. Other reader suggestions to improve the flow of late-game situations are more than welcome in the comments section.

Four more proposals for bold rules changes after the jump…

Kevin McHale: Inexplicable

The Inexplicable Kevin McHale
Photo Credit: Icon SMI

3. The Kevin McHale Rule

This one is simple and would be easy to implement. When the CEO of a corporation makes a big decision the SEC requires him to disclose the rationale for the move to the shareholders. He is also required to make regularly scheduled reports to the shareholders on the direction of the company. The NBA is a governing body and each NBA franchise is a business. The general manager is essentially the CEO and the fans are the shareholders. When the GM makes a roster move, he should be required to explain and defend the move in the form of a written press release (they can get help with it) and optional public statement. They should also be required to report on the direction of the franchise at least twice a year in the same fashion.

It shouldn’t be that hard to do; there wouldn’t need to be a 1,000 word minimum or anything and the GM could even spew BS if he were so inclined. The point would be to force that GM to be accountable on record for his actions and his consistency to the fans who financially support the team, and to present some empirical grounds for making a logical case against the competency of the GM. If he espouses one principle and then does something antithetical to that, he should be called out for it. And fans have a right to know why their favorite player has been cut or traded, or why a dud has been signed, or the reason their team payed over market value for a free agent or why the franchise was unwilling to retain the services of a quality player. It should be the duty of the GM to help the fans make sense of his moves, those are the people he’s making them for.

Case in point: this summer Kevin McHale of the Minnesota Timberwolves traded the San Antonio Spurs a second-round draft pick for Beno Udrih and “cash considerations.” Then McHale immediately waived Udrih. Why would he do such a thing? Inquiring minds want to know, and season ticket holders deserve to know — especially since Udrih has proved more than valuable for Sacramento this season and Minnesota was in need of a point guard.

4. Put an End to the Incessant Flopping

The flop has been elevated to the status of art form in the NBA today, and it’s a crying shame. I know it’s been around for a very long time, made famous by the likes of Bill Laimbeer, John Stockton and Vlade Divac, and now thoroughly ingrained in our league. Today it’s considered a legitimate strategy, with players like Manu Ginobili, Raja Bell and Anderson Varejao even praised for their ability to trick referees into calling phantom fouls. That’s not right.

Let’s be clear on my definition: the kind of flopping I mean here is when a player feigns an impact and dramatically falls to the floor in order to convince the referee a foul has taken place when there was no actual infraction on the play. There is no rule against this behavior, but there should be. While it is technically allowed by the NBA rules, it is clearly not in the spirit of the game. It’s infuriating to fans in pretty much any city outside of San Antonio, Cleveland and Phoenix. The flop is one of the most common complaints I hear from casual fans and non-fans about the NBA, and a complaint I can’t simply dismiss. As someone who endorses the NBA I find egregious flopping embarrassing.

The league needs to enact some measure to discourage this behavior. Calling a flop a foul every time seems impractical because it would cause too many players to foul out, put teams in the bonus too early and be too harsh a punishment for a player genuinely trying to take a charge that is mistaken for flopping. Instead, when the referee determines a player has flopped the opposing team should receive one free throw and retain possession of the ball. This would at least put some kind of discouragement in the back of the minds of the NBA’s serial floppers and it would stop coaches from coaching their team to flop.

Manu gets a taste of his own medicine

5. Hold Ticket Holders Accountable

As any NBA League Pass subscriber who watches small market teams knows, there are a lot of empty seats out there on any given night. It’s understandable that many local fans in some cities don’t want to support their team financially. They have no obligation to, especially when the franchise puts an inferior product on the court. But when a team is selling out games and loyal fans are turned away from the arena, that place should be full — especially the lower level. When they were selling games out the last couple years, it always pained me to tune into a Miami Heat game and see seemingly half of the VIP seats unoccupied. The same thing happens all across the NBA every night. When I see rows of fat cat season ticket holders’ seats in the VIP sections wide open it makes me crazy, even for teams that aren’t very popular. Tuning into an Atlanta Hawks game and seeing the first five rows more than half empty is just an embarrassment to the team and to the league. It’s a tarnish on the product the NBA is selling. Moreover, it’s a tragic waste.

There are people (myself included) who would kill to see their local team, or just an NBA game, that close. I propose that all season ticket holders, even (or especially) corporations, should be held accountable for the use of those tickets. They can give them away, they can sell them, they can show up themselves, whatever. But they should be responsible for filling those seats. And if they don’t a high percentage of the time, perhaps they should forfeit their playoff tickets priority.

This could even be a great part of the whole NBA Cares campaign: season ticket holders could turn in tickets they won’t use back to the team, who would then distribute the tickets to underprivileged youths. Just do something. Every team has enough fans to fill an arena, even if they don’t have enough who choose to and can afford to. Meanwhile, they have sold tickets going to waste every night.

6. A More Accurate Assist Tally

This final one is more of a “pretty to think” suggestion than an actual recommendation. The assist is a stat to measure how often a player makes a pass that directly leads to their team scoring. It’s a measure of how good of a distributor that player is and to what extent his passing is responsible for his team’s scoring. However, if a player makes a tremendous pass to a wide-open teammate and the teammate is intentionally fouled because the pass would have obviously led to a basket, no assist is awarded. If he goes to the line and makes both shots, how about awarding that assist? Perhaps if the fouled player only makes one of his attempts then .5 assists should be awarded, but I’m not sure that I’m prepared to even hypothetically suggest we muddy the box score so drastically.

Unfortunately, this is a fundamentally flawed proposal given that its primary concern is improving the accuracy of statistical record keeping. This would destroy the record books. The statistical history of some of the NBA’s premier passers would quickly fall by the wayside, and that’s not something any of us wants to see happen. Still, I feel like an assist has been earned in these situations.

And hey, while we’re talking hypothetical box scores changes, how about counting a turnover when a player lets the shot clock expire in their hands?

As always, reader suggestions, criticisms and effusive praise are encouraged in the comments section below.

Tags: Kevin McHale, Manu Ginobili, Beno Udrih, Anderson Varejao

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