Readers' ideas for NBA changes
Readers have a host of recommendations for changes that the NBA should enact
The flopping issue and block/charge call frustrate many NBA fans
Changing the playoff system is another popular suggestion among readers
If there was any consistent theme to the many calls for change in the NBA suggested by readers of last week's column, it was this: Quicker. Faster. Sooner.
As in, speed up the ends of games! Don't interrupt the flow and the action of a beautiful sport with incessant stoppages of play for (dribble, dribble, dribble, pause, exhale, aim) an endless string of free throws. Don't give folks who paid big bucks in the arena reasons to lose interest or people sitting in front of TVs at home so much time to click away.
That's why one suggestion from Logan Ferguson of Joplin, Mo., was so radical: He wants more referees involved. A lot more. "I would be happy with four, but five would be best,'' Ferguson wrote. "What's wrong with adding two permanent baseline officials? ... Watch many calls in the NBA and it's painfully obvious that officials make 'assumption' calls. ... Other times officials are making calls when at least 2-4 players stand in their line of sight.''
Clean up the officiating, Ferguson said, "and I guarantee the popularity will explode to the heights of the most widely accepted, best-officiated sport in America: the NFL.'' Fans in, oh, 16 cities will quibble with that on any given week in the fall or early winter. But I guarantee that if Ferguson in fact could make good on his guarantee -- the NBA's achieving NFL-like returns -- the league's Board of Governors would gladly employ seven game officials, just like the gridiron guys. Planting some refs courtside would more approximate the fans' view of the game, too, and we know how consistently right fans are in their view of foul calls and rules violations.
Here are some more reader ideas to supplement or straighten out the changes I suggested:
Playoffs, playground style. A number of fans want to see teams reseeded through the playoffs. But Michael of Dallas took his bracket-busting to a new level. He suggests a format without regard to conferences, in which the top teams get to choose their opponents, round by round; the team with the top record picks first from among clubs that would be lower seeds, the second-best team drafts second and so on. Same system right to the four teams left for the semifinals. You've got to admit, it would build up the grudge factor, an underdog team knowing that the favorite chose it for its alleged beatability.
Fix the All-Star Game. All-Star voting shouldn't be open to just anybody who can click a mouse, wrote Alain of Lille, France. "I suggest adding a few introductory questions for would-be voting fans such as, 'How many playoff series has 11-year veteran Tracy McGrady won?' Yes, this is for you, Chinese Rocket fans!''
John of Cleveland would go topsy-turvy with the balloting, letting experts choose the starters but allowing fans to select the reserves. That way, the big names who might not be having the greatest season still show up for what is, after all, an entertainment event. Coaches, in choosing reserves, sometimes go with the guys having a hot half-season while neglecting a legendary or popular player.
Then there was a plea from Brenda of Saline, Mich., to rotate division affiliations for All-Star purposes so that LeBron James might play on the same side with Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul every few years. Right now it's every four, and it's called the Olympics.
Fix the dunk contest. Though he liked Josh Smith's gesture in the 2005 dunk contest at All-Star weekend -- putting on former Hawks great Dominique Wilkins' jersey for a retro throwdown (4:57 mark of this clip) -- Chad of Monett, Mo., argues that clothes shouldn't decide the outcome. So he wasn't a big fan of Dwight Howard last year in New Orleans. "A superman cape shouldn't sway the votes for you,'' he wrote.
Numerous responders suggested the return of the one-on-one tournament, as staged by ABC in the 1970s, with the final rounds at All-Star weekend. Several more would love to see a H-O-R-S-E tournament, noting the appeal of those old McDonald's commercials featuring Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
Eye for an eye. Jack of Winston-Salem, N.C., wants to see suspensions for flagrant-2 fouls linked to the time missed by any player injured in the exchange. And to prevent a team from milking an injury to a second-stringer in order to keep Ron Artest or Andres Nocioni out of action, he recommends matching the caliber of player. "Starting point guard for starting point guard, backup center for backup center,'' he wrote. "Teams could even assign relative values of 1 through 12 according to their roster.''
End the flopping. It's bad enough that a defensive player might habitually seek a bailout from the refs by throwing himself backward. That's tedious. But the risk of serious injury, either to the man with the ball or the defender, argues for some changes to the block/charge calls. "There is nothing more frustrating than watching someone just run to a spot, stand still, then fall down the second they get touched by the offensive player,'' wrote Paul of Lincoln, R.I.
Color him humiliated. The NBA is a man's league, we're told constantly. But it might be less so if an idea from Daniel of San Diego were embraced. He advocates the Pink Jersey. This would be sort of a Scarlet Letter, except that any serial flopper would be required to wear a pink jersey for the next game (light pink for the home team, dark pink for the visitors). There would be a sliding scale, with one game in pink after five flops, two after 10 and so on. In the reader's view, this would generate pressure not to flop, for fear of public embarrassment. It also could generate revenue if pink jerseys of repeat offenders caught on at the concession stands.