The NBA has always been keen on changing rules to improve the game and increase the entertainment factor for the fans. While numerous changes didn’t seem thought through (think of the introduction of composite leather balls) and had to be reverted soon after taking effect, some modifications have huge influence and make the game what it is today. Most notably the introduction of the 3-point-line in the 1979-80 season, which has lately been dominating the style of play with franchises like the Rockets or the Warriors being prime examples. The emerge of quality long range shooters increases floor spacing and allows for more free flowing, less cluttered action under the basket, resulting in a somewhat more attractive offensive game. On the other hand, it also provides one-trick-ponies like Kyle Korver or Ryan Anderson with roles on their team that would have been unimaginable for such one dimensional players in the 80s or 90s.
For the 2015-16 season no changes of such magnitude are implemented. We’re talking more about minor tweaks to improve fairness and game flow, with the most impactful being the adjustment of the instant replay rules. Amongst others:
- Fouls can now be reviewed for flagrancy, without having to be called as flagrant on the floor in advance.
- Instant replays can now be utilized only in the last two minutes of regulation and the last to minutes of overtime, as opposed to full overtime.
- Instant replays can now be utilized to determine, whether the correct number of players was on the court.
While these changes will have minor impact at best and are in some cases plain amusing, there are real issues to be tackled. Flopping probably being the most significant, as not only is it excruciating to see a 270lb man drop in apparent agony from a mere brush, it also questions the integrity and sportsmanship of the whole league if the most dominant and marketable player not only takes part in the conning, but actually leads the pack. I’m all for players doing whatever it takes to win, including employing the rules to their advantage. But there has to be a certain risk connected to trying to fool the system and getting cheap calls. A $5,000 fine certainly doesn’t qualify and gives no incentive to stop. I’m thinking more along the lines of rewarding technicals, as tested in the D-League.
The most postulated rule change in the off-season was probably the prevention of Hack-A-Jordan/Howard/Rondo. Yes, it is agonizing to see games stretch out for hours, because professional ball players miss free throws like they are half court hook shots. Yes, it might hurt tv-ratings in the long run and yes, inclined head coaches will not quit to utilize this tactic, as long as it gets results. But in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and in overtime away from the ball fouls already result in possession after the free throw. Extending that to the whole game would put a stop to the tactic, but would send an alarming signal to upcoming players: that it’s ok to lack fundamentals, as long as athletic ability is there. We should not give in to fundamentally unsound players, as quality of the game would suffer in the long run. If a player can’t make free throws, let him feel the consequences, like sitting out in crucial parts of the game and subsequently taking pay cuts on the next contract. There’s nothing like the right motivation to make them work on their game.