LAS VEGAS (AP) — The NBA has for years heard complaints that a free-flowing, fast-paced and athletic game grinds to a halt at the most important and compelling time, when everyone tunes in to watch the final few minutes of a tight game.
Now the league is finally taking steps to make sure crunch time doesn’t get bogged down by commercial time.
The league’s Board of Governors unanimously approved some changes that will potentially eliminate four timeouts per game, help speed up the final minutes of games and emphasize a timely resumption of play after halftime.
The changes all go into effect starting this coming season, the NBA said Wednesday.
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Teams will be limited to two timeouts in the final three minutes of a game, instead of having up to three. All four quarters will have two mandatory timeouts, after the 7- and 3-minute marks.
“We’re pretty happy with the length of the game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We were more focused here on the pace and flow of the game. What we heard from our fans, what we heard from many of our teams, was that the end of the games in particular were too choppy. And I think since I was a kid, that was an issue people were talking about, the last two minutes of a game.”
Silver said the full complement of commercial-showing opportunities will still be available to the league’s broadcast partners, and that the league doesn’t believe player in-game rest will be affected by speeding up some aspects.
Also, all halftimes will be 15 minutes and delay of game penalties will be issued if teams are not ready to immediately play when intermission ends.
“These changes will help us fulfill our goal of improving game flow and pace of play,” NBA President of League Operations Byron Spruell said. “Fewer stoppages and less time without action, especially at the end of a game, will further enhance the viewing experience for our fans.”
The league also changed the trade deadline, moving it up so teams would not have their rosters significantly altered during the All-Star break.
This season’s deadline will be Feb. 8 — 10 days before the All-Star Game in Los Angeles. Under the old system the deadline would have been Feb. 22, when teams are getting ready to resume their seasons after the break.
If an All-Star is traded to the other conference before the game, Silver said the league will review which side that player should play for on a case-by-case basis.
The NBA’s Competition Committee also considered making other tweaks — such as the oft-criticized play where so many shooting fouls are now called on 3-point attempts, often when the offending contact there seems to be initiated by the offensive player.
But on that front, no changes are coming at this point.
In other news from the Board of Governors meeting and Silver’s news conference:
— One and done. Silver said the NBA will take “a complete, holistic look” at the one-and-done rule and how prepared players are going into their pro careers. He said that Kobe Bryant spoke with teams on Tuesday about his development before entering the league straight out of high school.
“I don’t believe the system is working well for anyone,” Silver said.
— Tanking. Silver addressed comments made by Dallas owner Mark Cuban that when the Mavericks were eliminated from playoff contention last season, they tanked with hopes of improving their draft lottery odds.
“Yes, it’s not what you want to hear as commissioner,” Silver said. The league and Cuban discussed it, and moved on, Silver said.
— Luxury tax. Silver said it’s too early to say if the NBA is concerned about the chance that 10 or more teams could be in the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season.
“These systems are so hard to calibrate. As the money’s gotten bigger, it’s gotten harder to project future cap and tax levels,” Silver said. “And I think those are all things that we continue to look at. Our teams are smart. They find ways to compete. They work within the existing system but always with one eye on the next time we sit down at the bargaining table.”
— Playoff seeding. Silver also spoke about the perception of conference imbalance, and the notion of seeding the top 16 teams for the playoffs with no limitations based on conferences. He said a study two years ago showed it wouldn’t be ideal, though Silver noted that it will likely be looked at again in the future.
“The only fair way to do it is to have a balanced schedule throughout the season,” Silver said.
— Expansion. Silver reiterated that neither relocation nor expansion is not in the NBA’s plans right now, and that there’s no focus on putting a team in Las Vegas anytime soon. He did say that when the NBA looks to grow in the future, and it will, the league will look at the Las Vegas market — which it has been fond of for years, especially the role it plays in the summer league.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed.
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