NBA games may move more quickly in the 2017/18 season and beyond.
The league announced Wednesday its Board of Governors has voted to institute minor changes to its timeout structure. The full list is available in this press release, but it suffices to say that games ought not take so long, with so many stoppages, in the future.
Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of full and 20-second timeouts. Going forward, all timeouts will last 75 seconds and will be referred to as team timeouts. In addition, each period will have only two mandatory timeouts: one after the first stoppage in play after the seven-minute mark and another after the three-minute mark. The mandatory under-nine timeouts in the second and fourth quarters are no more.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly for fans tuning in to close games late in the fourth quarter, teams will only be allowed to use two timeouts apiece after either the three-minute mark or whenever play begins following the second mandatory timeout of the period.
Indeed, teams will no longer be able to hoard their timeouts to burn them in the clutch. One can imagine fewer offense/defense substitutions as a result of this change. We can also expect to see more free-flowing, spontaneous basketball on key possessions, as coaches won’t necessarily be able to call timeouts to organize their clubs and call pet plays.
In addition to these tweaks to timeouts, the league announced two new conditions which will result in a delay-of-game penalty. The first is if a free-throw shooter steps beyond the three-point arc between free-throw attempts. The second is if a team isn’t ready to resume play following the expiration of the halftime clock, which runs 15 minutes instead of 20 and which begins counting down immediately after the expiration of the first half.
All in all, the NBA deserves credit for recognizing one of the chief complaints about the sport today—that with so many timeouts and interruptions, it can become a joyless slog—and taking steps to remedy it. Let’s hope these changes work as well in practice as they do in theory.