NBA moves up trade deadline, reduces timeouts

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Remember when DeMarcus Cousins (maybe) found out he was traded while doing an interview after the All-Star game?

You won’t see something like that again.

The NBA moved up its trade deadline and enacted a few measures – including reducing the number of timeouts – accelerate gameplay.

NBA release:

Effective with the 2017-18 season, the maximum number of timeouts per game will decrease from 18 to 14.  In addition, during the last three minutes of a game, teams will be limited to two team timeouts each instead of the previous rule that allowed three per team in the last two minutes.

“These changes will help us fulfill our goal of improving game flow and pace of play,” said Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations.  “Fewer stoppages and less time without action, especially at the end of a game, will further enhance the viewing experience for our fans.”

The rule modifications for timeouts are below:

  • Each team will have seven timeouts per game, with no restrictions per half.
  • All team timeouts will be 75 seconds.  In the previous format, “full” timeouts were 90 seconds and “20-second” timeouts were 60 seconds.  Both “full” and “20-second” timeouts have been replaced by team timeouts.
  • All four periods will have two mandatory timeouts, which will take place after the first stoppage under the seven- and three-minute marks.
  • The under-nine-minute mandatory timeouts in the second and fourth periods will be eliminated.
  • Each team can enter the fourth period with up to four team timeouts.
  • Each team will be limited to two team timeouts after the later of (i) the three-minute mark of the fourth period or (ii) the resumption of play after the second mandatory timeout of the fourth period.
  • Each team will have two team timeouts per overtime period; previously teams had three.

The NBA also made the following changes regarding game flow:

  • Referees will assess a delay-of-game violation if a free throw shooter ventures beyond the three-point line between attempts.
  • Halftime will last 15 minutes for all games, beginning immediately upon expiration of the second period.  A delay-of-game penalty will be issued if a team is not ready to start play at the expiration of the halftime clock.

In addition, the Board of Governors approved moving the trade deadline from the Thursday after the NBA All-Star Game to the Thursday 10 days before the All-Star Game.  With the new placement of the trade deadline, teams will be able to settle their rosters before the All-Star break and avoid the disruptions that result from players joining new teams just as practices and games are beginning to resume following the All-Star break.

The NBA’s Competition Committee unanimously recommended the rules changes before the Board of Governors’ vote.

The trade deadline will now come in the middle of regular-season play. The league would rather disrupt that than practices during the All-Star break?

Traded players missing games while they travel to their new cities is silly considering how close the deadline is to the All-Star break, and the NBA just made it more common. The deadline was previously on the day regular-season games resumed after the All-Star break, meaning there were at least no games in the days leading up. Now, there are games on deadline day and the days before and after.

The league also created a dead period in the few days between the All-Star game and the resumption of the regular season. No games, no trade rumors. There could be post-deadline buyout intrigue, but that will generate only minimal interest. The NBA is surrendering days of attention.

The right time for the trade deadline would have been the Tuesday or Wednesday after the All-Star game. All-Stars would have to deal with trade rumors during the mid-winter event, but they’ve always handled that fine. Traded players would have time to join their new teams without missing games, and the NBA would remain prominent without a few-day gap.

At least the timeout changes are a step in the right direction. Grumble at millennials and their attention spans, but the game is more entertaining without as many stoppages. That could pay off in the long run with larger and more engaged audiences. In the short term, fewer timeouts mean fewer opportunities to sell commercials. But the league can compensate by implementing ads more seamlessly, like jersey ads. That’s an exchange I’d make every time as a viewer.

I’m more intrigued by the other two game-flow changes.

Free-throw shooters high-fiving everyone and pacing around between attempts quietly adds up – and I think it’s generally bad for the shooter. I’d rather remain squared up with the basket rather than lose muscle memory. But NBA players obviously handle that differently, so good for the league stepping in. If anything, the NBA didn’t go far enough. Why limit free-throw shooters to the entire area inside the arc rather than just the lane and free-throw circle?

I’m very curious whether the referees enforce a hard limit on halftime length. Halftimes generally creep longer only during special events – number retirements and such. Will teams cut off rambling speeches when former greats are honored? Will refs actually penalize the home teams that don’t?