A call for change in the NBA (cont.)
The rule about traded players re-signing with the teams that dealt them. The league flexed a few years back after Gary Payton got traded to Atlanta, refused to report, got waived and returned to Boston, all in eight days' time. It smells fishy to the average fans -- and is merely cap-rules maneuvering -- when Detroit can "trade'' Antonio McDyess to Denver and then bring him back a month later. Traded players should have to stay with the teams that acquire them for the balance of the season. Spending an asset, yet still having it, sounds like something out of the subprime chicanery that got us into this mess anyway.
Smiles. As in, any NBA player posing for a photograph to be used on the cover of a media guide or in a national publication must, by contract, smile. These guys are making millions of dollars a year, plenty of reason to be happy even if the coming tax hikes pinch more.
Court markings. There are so many lines, arcs, dashes, hash marks, boxes and squiggles (?) on the official NBA court that I no longer know why half of them are there. What the league needs to do is to simplify the offensive and defensive rules so that all those markings aren't needed. The lane, the three-point arc, the half-court line -- that's plenty!
The draft lottery. No more allotting Ping-Pong balls in inverse order of record. Let's tier it: the worst 10 teams, the middle 10 teams and the top 10, with teams on each tier getting the same number of chances. That removes much of the advantage in tanking -- the fifth-worst team would feel no pressure to lose more frequently -- and the break between Nos. 10 and 11 would be close enough to playoff qualifying that a few more balls wouldn't matter either.
Suspension rules. If a player is suspended, he must sit out his team's next home game. It's not fair, in a league that markets marquee names, to punish fans in Portland who were hoping to see Wade or Paul, and vice versa East to West. This would have the added benefit of equalizing home-court advantage to a degree.
D-League affiliations. Give every NBA Development League team a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA team. The league needs a farm system. It needs to generate interest in up-and-coming players and it needs to directly influence their development through systematically consistent coaching methods. The Knicks' farm team, for example, would play an up-tempo game to prep players for Mike D'Antoni's style. In fact, D'Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh would appoint the coaches of their D-League club, and those coaches eventually would be ready and able for promotions to the NBA sideline.
Media accountability. Not sure this is the NBA's call exactly, but the media don't get a pass here in this era of change. Two days after the NBA draft, all media outlets that run mock drafts in advance of the big event must run their mock-draft results. C'mon, 'fess up what you got right and what you got wrong, and it's no fair making the claim "correctly predicted 26 of the 30 first-round picks.'' Yeah, you had those 26 guys going in the first round -- but you were way off on the teams they landed with, so you were ... wrong! Ditto for rumors: Every NBA writer who reports, passes along or fuels a trade rumor must, when the trading deadline passes, post a scoreboard of the ones he or she got right vs. the ones that never happened. I'd be amazed if any of us batted .250.
Referee accessibility. There still is too much discretion in when a crew chief, representing that night's refs, is willing to explain a call or a situation to a media pool reporter. Part of moving beyond the Tim Donaghy mess was humanizing these guys, and nothing is more humanizing than real accountability and conversation with the public.
Instant replays. I happen to like the NFL challenge system and would love to see NBA coaches given the opportunity to request that a play be reviewed. Limit it, sure. Take away a timeout, fine. But it gives the coaches a more active role in the outcome of a game, beyond just subbing and strategizing. The NFL even keeps track of coaches' challenge records. There's drama in this stuff and we all like drama nearly as much as we like change.
Last one: Coaches get to wear warm-up suits. Just who are they trying to impress in their fancy, custom-tailored outfits anyway? We're in an era of humility and basic values now, so enough of the strutting in Wall Street finery. A few zippered outfits with corporate logos prominently displayed could be a nice additional stream of revenue for struggling franchises.
A chunk of change, so to speak.
Steve Aschburner covered the Minnesota Timberwolves and the NBA for 13 seasons for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He has served as president or vice president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association since 2005.