NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently made remarks about the league looking into the length of NBA games, suggesting the attention span of Millennials was a motivating factor. Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has one idea on how to shorten games: ban replay.
Van Gundy has been an opponent to replay for some time, mostly attacking from the angle of replay happening at arbitrary times of the game and on less important plays.
“We really don’t care happens the first 46 minutes, but we want to get every call right (in the final two),” Van Gundy said. “Actually, we don’t even care if we get every call right in the last two minutes — we pick and choose the calls we want to get right in the last two minutes. So, we end up in replay.
“We want to get all the out-of-bounds calls right in the last two minutes. Surprisingly, the most important thing is, we don’t care about getting foul calls right in the last two minutes. But, we’ve got to get out-of-bounds and goaltending and that stuff right.”
The league already reduced the amount of time they’ve spend per replay this season to around 32 seconds. Even considering that, it’s not immediately apparent how much time having replay really adds to the length of an average NBA game.
For example, at the end of the 2014-15 season the NBA released data saying they had 2,162 reviews averaging 42.1 seconds long, putting them at 1.76 per-game. That’s only adding 74 seconds — one minute and 14 seconds — onto each game, on average.
Is that so bad? It’s hard to tell. Things like league pace, offensive efficiency, and free-throw rate are all factors that go into how long games take.
There is some significant data that says replays have not lengthened NBA games, and in fact league contests are shorter than they were about seven years ago.
That being said, the fourth quarters can seem to drag on, so I get Van Gundy’s point. Plus, coming from a new angle like “eliminate replay altogether unless you’re going to review fouls” is just crazy enough I want to hear it.
There’s no question end-of-game situations can bog down, which can be harmful for casual NBA viewers as the league tries to expand it’s already exploding footprint. It’s going to be a line the league will have to tiptoe as it goes through a growth phase — do they play to the diehards, who are mostly OK with game length now save for a few tweaks? Or do they make a play to make it quicker and flashier to draw in new fans who don’t make up their core?
It’s not a life-or-death situation here for the game of professional basketball, but it will be interesting to see where Silver takes it whether Millennial attention spans are to blame or not.