The National Basketball Association just may be the most popular league in the entire world. Soccer is by far the number one sport in the world, but soccer fans are divided in following one of the top leagues like the Premier League, La Liga, or Bundesliga. I guess if you count the Champions League the NBA isn’t quite number one, but either way, David Stern, along with the help of Magic, Larry, and Michael took a league that was hardly alive and made it known by every sports fan in the world. So one would think the wonderful Association wouldn’t need to be fixed. Well, just like how the NBA cares, so does your favorite blogger about his favorite league, and as we head into Adam Silver’s first full season as commissioner, here are my ways to fix the NBA so it can be even more perfect than it already is.
Enough with the free pass on traveling, already
I consider myself an historian of the game, but I haven’t seen enough games before the ’90s to actually know when the unwritten rule of not calling traveling correctly came about. Regardless of how it originated, it only hurts the credibility of the league and the worst part is it’s a really easy fix. These are the best basketball refs in the world, it’s not hard for them to count steps correctly. Clean it up, fellas.
Stop the flopping
I’m putting this one on you, Players Association. Have some pride and dignity, guys. Never in my life have I flopped in athletic competition. It never enters my brain, but even if it did, how much fun is it to win if you have to cheat to do it? And yes, flopping is cheating. I like the steps the league has taken to punish flopping, but I would be even more punitive if I were in charge. Allow me to explain my complete stance here. Allowing oneself to get knocked over when someone else runs into you isn’t a flop in my book. And even embellishing contact is less of an offense to me if you actually got fouled. But when you completely fabricate something to get a call and the instant replay shows it clearly, that should be a suspension. It’s absolute bush league, and it hurts the game. Watch those clips I linked to if you haven’t yet. The first one is an example where you can’t fine or suspend someone because you can’t tell with certainty where the foul ends and the flop begins, but I’m still asking LeBron in that situation to be a man and stop with the theatrics after the fact just to get a call. The foul was going to be called no matter what, but his flopping got Chandler a flagrant, and that’s shameful. The Harden example created a foul out of thin air, and his punishment would be a swift Artest elbow to the back of the head in addition to his suspension and fine. The boy who cried wolf got what was coming to him on that one.
The “Dress Code” isn’t working
I understand what Stern was trying to do with instituting the dress code, but I completely disagree with it. The argument is that in the workplace, one should dress professionally. Here’s the problem, they don’t dress professionally. The official dress code was reported to be “business casual” back when Stern instituted it. I gotta say, nothing says business casual quite like this:
This subject is kind of a tricky one, because the root of it has some racial undertones. Stern hated the “thug” image his league had and he figured this was a way to help change that image. I disagree with this strategy, because racists who label the guys in the league all thugs just because they have a few tattoos are going to be racist idiots no matter what. Those same racists still label the NBA a league of thugs, but now the rest of us are subjected to these pretentious fancy boys sashaying their pretty little selves about the town square. If they’re allowed to “express themselves” through fashion that is by no means business casual then guys should also be allowed to wear baggy shirts and chains if they so desire. I’m fine if we want to make everyone wear nice suits, because looking sharp never goes out of style. But enough with these guys using NBA press conferences for their own version of Project Runway. It’s embarrassing. Take a stand on this, Adam!
Get rid of the imaginary “One and Done” rule
I call it imaginary because the NBA isn’t telling kids to stay in school for only one year. It’s completely the player’s choice if he wants to continue his education or not. I do, however, think it is ridiculous that they aren’t allowed to enter the league straight out of high school if a team is willing to give them a contract. Just make the rule 18 years old to play in the NBA. You have to be 18 to vote, 18 to go to war, 18 to buy cigarettes, and now let it be 18 to be an NBA player. This rule really is only a problem for the NCAA, and I say that’s not the NBA’s concern. If the NCAA ever wants to adapt and try to figure out a solution, they can come to you, Adam Silver, and maybe then you can come up with something that works for everybody. But until the NCAA is willing to acknowledge their system is broken, just do what’s right, which is on the side of liberty. Allow the players and teams to choose for themselves as long as the young man in question is old enough to purchase a Playboy.
Instant replay needs to go (with a couple exceptions)
No more reviewing flagrant fouls. The stopping and starting of action was so obnoxious in these playoffs and every year it seems to get worse. Refs call everything flagrant so they’ll be allowed to review the play only to reduce it to a common foul after wasting our time for five minutes. Let the league office review these hard fouls and retroactively give flagrants on blatant missed calls and so what if a couple get missed in games. This way only the most obvious of call will be called flagrant in games which is the way it should be. The fans want a tougher brand of the game. Replays on possessions in the final two minutes makes absolutely no sense. Sure, everyone remembers close missed calls at the end of games more than missed calls at the start of the game, but in theory, they both count just as much in deciding the game. Defining two minutes as the mark is so arbitrary to me it’s insane! And then what about when the guy got fouled but it still went off of him like Reggie Jackson/Matt Barnes in this year’s playoffs? If we’re going to review a missed call, then the entire play needs to be under review including fouls, but that opens up a can of worms the NBA doesn’t want to get into, thus, banish the replay of possession. Oh, and while we’re at it, get rid of “clear path” fouls too, because they’re yet another reason to stop the game. The only things that should be reviewable with instant replay is to check if a shot is a 2 pointer or 3 pointer, and to see if a shot beat the buzzer. That’s it. And if Adam Silver wants to defy me on this, then I will just plead with him to put a replay official on every NBA officiating crew so that person can check replays on the fly to maintain the pace of play. My not-so-humble opinion of why the NFL kills the NBA in ratings in this country is because the NFL is a slow-paced game that speeds up in crunch time, whereas the NBA is a fast paced game that slows down in crunch time because of fouls, free-throws and time outs. It’s obviously more complicated than that, but let’s at least do what we can to help keep the pace as fast as possible.
Address the “tanking” problem
Finally, what can be done about teams that are trying to be bad to improve their draft position? This is almost impossible to fix, but I’ll take a crack at it. Let’s keep the lottery, but here’s my two-part formula for determining lottery position:
1. For all games before the All Star break, each loss counts as a point
2. For all games after the All Star break, each win counts as a point
The most points gets the number one lottery position, second most gets second position, and so on. Of course all playoff teams are ineligible for the lottery as before, and the schedule would have to be modified so all teams play an equal number of games before All Star weekend. This probably still won’t eliminate tanking completely, but I think it could improve things somewhat. Every team in theory should be trying to win games and make the playoffs, but eventually when they fall out they try to go the other way and lose to improve their draft position. Now winning is what improves your draft position late in the season, so fans of teams that are out of the playoffs can show up to games for a better product and a reason to cheer for their team to win rather than lose. Imagine if the Bucks and Sixers were tied in “points” going into the 82nd game and the winner of the game would get the number one lottery spot rather than the loser. Fans might actually show up to watch that, right? It’s an idea, anyhow.
So even though the NBA is a perfect league in my eyes, it can always be more perfect. Commissioner Silver, you can just hit me up in the comment section and I’ll get back to you so we can exchange information. I think I can shoehorn some consulting into my schedule.