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  Both “full” and “20-second” timeouts have been replaced by team timeouts.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?

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

Gordon Hayward return
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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.