Anybody who covers a sport for a living is full of bright ideas about how to make it better. Now and then they tell us what those ideas are.
Michael Powell treated himself to such an exercise this week in the New York Times. First-round NBA playoff series tend to be lopsided bores, he said. So make them best-of-five. Maybe even best-of-three!
Sure, why not? And if that idea doesn’t grab you, Powell has others.
“The last few minutes of NBA playoff games are an unsightly mess,” he asserted. Coaches call one timeout after another “to prove their brilliance.” Games stop so long while refs study replays on monitors, the players might as well go back to the locker rooms for a smoke.
And then there are all those “brain-numbing commercials” we have to sit through while the refs stare at their monitors and the coaches draw up their dazzling schemes. (Sometimes, when a team is nine points behind with 17 seconds left to play and the coach calls time, you wonder what he could possibly think he has up his sleeve.)
In Europe, Powell mentioned, there are fewer timeouts (and no TV timeouts), and coaches can’t call a time while the ball’s in play.
Reading this gave me my own bright idea. In the last two minutes of every NBA game, eliminate timeouts completely! No calling time so the coach can inflict his genius. No calling time to advance the ball to half court. Or because five seconds are almost up and you haven’t put the ball in play yet. Or because the other team has trapped you against the sideline.
Put the game in the players’ hands. And they either do it or they don’t.
And for those climactic two minutes, we could think about eliminating substitutions too.