In its latest attempt to become the sports version of Big Brother, the NBA wants to speed up the start of games this season by instituting a 90-second clock from the end of lineup introductions to the opening tip. If teams aren't ready in time, they will be assessed a delay-of-game warning.
Sacrificed to make this happen will be the often elaborate pregame player rituals, handshake routines and antics that have become commonplace in recent seasons.
But selling individual NBA players and their personalities is part of what has made the league so popular. It may not be crucial to game outcomes, but it is part of what draws fans into arenas, connects them to the teams and encourages blind support and the endless spending of their money.
What slows down NBA games are timeouts, especially TV-mandated ones, which have been joined by increasing replays and conferences over out-of-bounds plays and flagrant fouls, all of which hurt a game's rhythm. A reduction in timeouts could have an immediate impact, possibly making contests more unpredictable. Any reason to make viewers tune in before the fourth quarter is a good one.
Even more effective would be reducing the length of games themselves. No one complains about Olympic games that are 40 minutes and even allow fewer chances to call timeouts. If tennis can debate reducing Grand Slam men's matches from five sets to three in the interest of self-preservation, the NBA should have the guts to consider real, simple and fundamental changes.
All a 90-second pregame rule does is make things more complicated.
- Craig Stouffer