Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Eight Ways For David Stern to Improve The NBA

I love the NBA. For me, it's the best sport to watch. I love seeing the big dunks, blocked shots and the crazy athletic abilities.
What else I like is that my wife enjoys watching it too. The NHL and NFL guys are too covered up to see who's who, but in the NBA, you get a close up of everyone.

It's also an easier game to follow, understand, and explain. I'm not dissin' the other sports or their players, but the NHL is a bit of a blur and the NFL has heaps of zany calls and rules that make it too stop-starty. But that's just me.

Most aspects of the NBA are pretty good. The salary cap and draft keeps the league relatively even, and at the start of each season, you can only really write off a few teams that are likely in for a bad year. This year we'll say those teams are Minnesota, New York, Indiana and the Clippers. (Oh, the Clippers!)

Most other teams could—could—have a winning season. Anyway, the point of this article is that while the NBA is great, it's not perfect. Here are eight things that I think the NBA should do to maintain its status as the world's best league:

1. Floppers needs to be punished
Basketball is a physical game. Floppers might as well admit “I’m not good enough to play D properly, so I’m going to ask the ref to bail me out.” MAN UP.
Real defenders play real defense. Tough defense. You can defend a guy hard without being dirty and without being a flopper.

If you can’t defend like a man, then you don’t deserve to be guarding the player you’re on.
Soft players—who fall over as if they’ve just been shot, then pump their fist as if to say “what a great player I am,” when all they did was con the ref—need to be punished.

In soccer we see it all the time—players diving and falling all over the place trying to "win" a penalty or a free kick. It sucks in soccer and it sucks in basketball.

So what’s my solution? Assess floppers with a non-unsportsmanlike T. Embarrass them.

2. Cut the amount of time-outs in the last two minutes of the game.
If a game is tight, let the players use their brains and talents to try to figure something out. The stop-start nature of trying to orchestrate every last play takes the spontaneity out of the game.
Two time outs—MAX—per team in the last two minutes. Let the multi-squillionaires think on their feet for a change.

In fact, while we're on this one, lets scrap the TV time-outs too. I know this is a business and these time-outs make the league a lot of money, but the league is very healthy financially right now. They could afford to stop milking the fans for every penny.

3. It's time the NBA acknowledges that star players get star calls from refs.
Nothing bugs me more than watching a game when the refs don't call a foul on johnny-no-name, only for All-Star *insert name here* to just look at the hoop and get the call.Dwayne Wade in particular gets a free ride from the refs.

Now, don't get me wrong, D-Wade is a tough guy who attacks the rim a lot, but sometimes the whistle gets blown if he just thinks about going to the hoop.
The NBA continues to deny it happens, saying they have evidence to prove otherwise—but any real fan knows that it whatever the name says on the back of the shirt affects the way some calls get made.

KG set about a million moving picks at the top of the circle during the Finals last year and the refs always ignored them. All I'm hoping to see is that fouls get called the same for everyone. These players are good enough, they don't need any favours.

4. Any pre-arranged trade side deals should void the whole trade.
I believe the NBA were going to do something about this in the summer anyway, but I'm not sure if they have done or not yet. The whole saga with Jason Kidd going to Dallas last season, part of which had Jerry Stackhouse going to New Jersey only to be waived to enable him to return to the Mavs, sucked.

It just makes the league look tacky—and David Stern doesn't like tacky. While we're on this, including players who have obviously retired (Van Horn, McKie) in trades shouldn't be allowed either. It doesn't matter who holds who's rights—if you're not actively playing anymore, you can't be traded.

David Stern should have voided Kidd going to the Mavs for at least two seasons as punishment.

5. Anyone who plays in the All-Star game must have played at least 30 games during the season.
This wasn't so much of a problem last year—more the year before when Shaq, was voted in when he had barely touched the ball. It's not an anti-Shaq rant—I love Diesel as much as anyone—but being selected into the All-Star game isn't a right, it's a privilege.

6. Qualifying for the playoffs and the structure.
This is the area that requires the most change of all. Last season, out West we had the Golden State Warriors at 14 games OVER .500 which would have had them in fourth place in the East, yet they missed the playoffs altogether!

In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks were both under .500, yet were in the postseason. Atlanta won ELEVEN games LESS than the Warriors. Atlanta by no means disgraced themselves in the playoffs, and pushed the eventual champions Celtics further than both the Pistons and the Lakers did, but that's not the point.

The point is that if a team won that many more games during the regular season, then they deserve to be in the playoffs.
Something needs to be done, because it sucks to see such an exciting team like Golden State miss out just because of where they are geographically located. It really shouldn't matter.

I'm all for making it the best 16 teams into the playoffs, then setting it up like a Tennis Grand Slam format. Seed and rank the teams based on the amount of games won. If there's any ties, go by the margins of victory.

I know that there will still be some un-evenness with the schedule, but I still think my way is better than the current set-up.

If it means that an East Coast team—say, the 76ers—have to play a series against a West team like LA in the first round, then so be it. There is no sane argument to say that a team can qualify to make the playoffs eight games BELOW .500 while a team 14 wins OVER doesn't. And make the first round best-of-five again.

7. Taunting on dunks should be allowed.
If someone like Andre Iguodala crushes one over somebody, then he should be allowed to let that player know about it. The game needs it. Like last year, when Rodney Carney smashed one on Dwayne Wade and then Wade came back and hammered one on Carney. That was great to watch. More of it please!

8. Players should be banned from kissing the centre court logo of their former or current team.
When Allen Iverson bent down to smooch the 76ers logo on his first return as a Denver Nugget, it was cool and a sign of respect, a "no hard feelings guys, but my time here was up" type statement.

Unfortunately, it started a trend that became cringe worthy. Morris Peterson did it on his return to Toronto and then Kevin Garnett did it—in Boston. Now, KG is a classy guy in almost every other way, but if he was going to do it anywhere, he should have done it back in Minnesota as a sign to the fans that he still loves them, in the way that AI did.

By kissing the Celtic Leprechaun, he was kinda sticking it to the Minny fans in a way. As Mark Jackson would say, "KG, tou're better than that." And he is.

So those are my suggestions to improve the league. Am I right or wrong? Did I miss something? Any other rules that we could change to improve this great game? Let me know.

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