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NBA announces new rules change to improve game flow, but is it enough?

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Timeouts have been reduced and are now limited to only two in the last three minutes of a game.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Board of Governors has approved significant changes for the league designed to improved game flow, especially during crunch time, that will be implemented for the 2017-18 season.

“These changes will help us fulfill our goal of improving game flow and pace of play,” said Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations. “Fewer stoppages and less time without action, especially at the end of a game, will further enhance the viewing experience for our fans.”

Teams are now limited to seven timeouts each, reducing the maximum amount of timeouts per game to 14 instead of 18. These team timeouts will last 75 seconds and will replace full timeouts (90 seconds) and 20-second timeouts. During the final three minutes of a game, teams will only be allowed to call two timeouts each instead of three during the last two minutes of a game.

The list of rules changes with regards to timeouts are as follows:

  • Each team will have seven timeouts per game, with no restrictions per half.
  • All team timeouts will be 75 seconds. In the previous format, “full” timeouts were 90 seconds and “20-second” timeouts were 60 seconds. Both “full” and “20-second” timeouts have been replaced by team timeouts.
  • All four periods will have two mandatory timeouts, which will take place after the first stoppage under the seven- and three-minute marks.
  • The under-nine-minute mandatory timeouts in the second and fourth periods will be eliminated.
  • Each team can enter the fourth period with up to four team timeouts.
  • Each team will be limited to two team timeouts after the later of (i) the three-minute mark of the fourth period or (ii) the resumption of play after the second mandatory timeout of the fourth period.
  • Each team will have two team timeouts per overtime period; previously teams had three.

The NBA also announced two new changes that are also designed to improve game flow:

  • Referees will assess a delay-of-game violation if a free throw shooter ventures beyond the three-point line between attempts.
  • Halftime will last 15 minutes for all games, beginning immediately upon expiration of the second period. A delay-of-game penalty will be issued if a team is not ready to start play at the expiration of the halftime clock.

The trade deadline has also been moved from the Thursday after the NBA All-Star Game to the Thursday 10 days before the All-Star Game. According to the NBA, “teams will be able to settle their rosters before the All-Star break and avoid the disruptions that result from players joining new teams just as practices and games are beginning to resume following the All-Star break.”

So far, no changes have been announced to the actual game itself to help improve game flow. Repeatedly fouling poor free throw shooters without any repercussion remains unchanged. For example, after a certain amount of fouls in a quarter the team receiving an intentional foul could choose which player to shoot the free throws — or just one free throw and keeping possession afterwards, similar to a technical foul.

Another change could be the annoying method of intentional fouling to stop a team from completing a fast break opportunity, which only benefits the team that committed the turnover. The Advantage Rule in soccer could easily be adopted in cases where the ballhandler still has possession of the ball or has already passed it despite being fouled and the referee can acknowledge that a foul has occured while still allowing the play to continue. If the team does score a basket, then one free throw would be awarded. If they failed to score then two free throws would be awarded regardless of whether or not the team is in the penalty.

There is also no mention of disallowing coaches to gather their players and discuss strategy during video reviews, a common occurrence that slows down the game and effectively gives teams free timeouts.

What other aspects of the game do you think could be improved upon, or do you think the game is fine the way it is? Have your say in the comments below.