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Thursday, August 03, 2006

NBA Rules Changes for 2006-07

The NBA Board of Governors announced several rules changes that will take effect this season. Quoting directly from the league's official press release, the new rules are as follows:

1) The first four seeds in each conference will continue to be given to the three division winners and the team with the next best regular season record, but these four teams will now be seeded in order of their regular season records. Among other things, this change will ensure that the two teams with the best records in the conference will not meet earlier than the Conference Finals.

2) If a team has two 60 second timeouts left in the last two minutes of regulation or in overtime, one of the timeouts will be shortened to a 20 second timeout.

3) Instead of having three 60 second timeouts in overtime, teams will have two 60's and one 20 second timeout. Teams will no longer be permitted to carry over a 20 second timeout from regulation into overtime.

4) Playoff roster size will be expanded from 13 to 15 players, with each team designating 12 active players and up to three inactive players prior to each game.

The first change comes from the "Maybe having the teams with the two best records meet in the second round is not a great idea" department. Reporters brought up this possibility--and possible format changes to avoid it--to Commissioner David Stern during his press conference at All-Star Weekend. I believe that part of the initial resistance to making the change was that it supposedly diminishes the value of winning a division title, but that is ridiculous. Teams can still hang a division championship banner in the rafters of their arenas if they so desire but such flags have nothing to do with how to properly seed the playoffs. There was also some thought that "things sort themselves out" and that (1) the worst case scenario would not happen and (2) some equally bad scenario might also happen under a different format. Of course, the worst case scenario did in fact happen--the teams with the two best records in the West met in the second round, with the Dallas Mavericks eliminating the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in what would have been a great Conference Finals matchup.

The timeout changes are an obvious effort to speed up the game. Some fans complain that the last few minutes of an NBA game take too long but I have always thought that the problem is much worse in the college game--incessant fouling and constant timeouts are much more rampant there. In any case, since the NBA previously made a change to allow teams to advance the basketball with a 20 second timeout, I don't think that coaches will much rue the loss of 40 seconds; often those late timeouts are called primarily to advance the ball (which is why Dallas would obviously not want to use its last timeout after Wade's first free throw in Game Five of the Finals but, as Mark McGwire might say, we're here to focus on the future, not the past).

Increasing the playoff roster size simply brings the postseason rule in line with the way things are already done during the regular season.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:30 AM


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At Thursday, August 03, 2006 4:01:00 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Rule 3 is a big deal.

Also, what are you gonna do if the short timeout becomes 15 or 24 seconds? You'll need a new blog.

At Thursday, August 03, 2006 7:14:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I almost mentioned that in my post, but I realize that the rules changes aren't about me :)

The 20 second timeout is a distinctive feature of the NBA game, so discerning readers realize that a blog with that name focuses on the NBA. If the NBA completely got rid of the 20 second timeout then it wouldn't be long before the name would seem as out of place as "Three to Make Two" would sound now.*

*--For those who don't know, the NBA used to allow shooters three free throws to make two. Can you imagine that rule now with guys like Shaq and Ben Wallace?


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