I’m an avid NBA fan, yet I never watch the regular season, mainly because the superstars don’t care about the regular season. As long as the superstars make the playoffs, the regular season is kind of irrelevant. The stars are constantly sitting out and not playing just because they need rest. Reducing the length of the regular season would decrease the likelihood of injury and improve the quality of each game. We are witnessing an NBA season in which most stars have suffered some sort of injury in the regular season or playoffs.
European soccer has multiple tournaments and trophies throughout the year. The NBA has one trophy, and every year, it seems like only a handful of teams even have a shot to win. Hypothetically, if a midseason tournament resulted in the winner of each conference having the chance to be awarded the number one seed in the NBA playoffs, this might be the necessary incentive. Meanwhile, among the teams that are not playoff contenders, a tournament could occur in which teams compete against each other for the number one pick in the draft. To give the worst teams more of a chance, the lower-seeded teams could have home-court advantage in all games.
Another issue I’ve heard is the games are decided in the fourth quarter and rarely prior to this point. As a fan, unless it’s deep into the playoffs, why would I watch the first couple quarters? With European soccer, the game-winning goal might occur in the first 10 minutes of action. In tennis, if someone takes the first two sets, there may not even be a fourth or fifth set. This is to say that tennis and European football’s outcomes might be decided at the beginning of the game. Rarely in the NBA is the game over at halftime. One potential rule change is that the NBA could have games last five quarters instead of four, and then the winning team has to win three quarters to end the game. That would dramatically increase the focus on quarter one and two, instead of just waiting around for the end of the game to start watching.
Another quick fix to increase the value of games that go into overtime is that players should be awarded one additional foul if the game goes into extra time, because players do not take into consideration the off-chance the game might go into overtime and may be more conservative on defense. Coaches are given more timeouts to use as they wish, but players do not receive more fouls. This is so obviously strange and there is no reason it shouldn’t change. If a game goes into overtime and a couple players are fouled out, the extra time does not serve the purpose it was intended to do.
I think NBA commissioner Adam Silver should take into consideration some of these rule changes. The NBA by definition is a business in entertainment, and not doing everything they can do to increase the quality of the entertainment is only going to drive down business. These ideas are thought experiments in which I attempt to imagine what the game would look like if these rules were implemented.