NBA to Test Shorter-Length Games in Preseason

By Simon McMurchie '15

On Tuesday, Oct. 14, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced that the Oct. 19 matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics would consist of four 11-minute quarters for a total 44-minute long game, rather than the typical 12-minute quarters and 48-minute game.

Lionel Hollins, coach of the Brooklyn Nets, one of the teams participating in the October 19 game. (Photo: New York Times)

Lionel Hollins, coach of the Brooklyn Nets, one of the teams participating in the Oct. 19 game. (Photo: New York Times)

Though it’s only one game, and a preseason game at that, the move comes in response to criticisms of the league’s grueling 82-game season, which can be tough for players that play big minutes. The NBA’s President of Basketball Operations, Rod Thorn, explained that, “At a recent coaches’ meeting, we had a discussion about the length of our games, and it was suggested that we consider experimenting with a shorter format.”

In addition, the NBA has recently begun a campaign to cut down the broadcast times for televised games, though typically in subtle ways, like blowing a horn to usher teams out of timeouts and the banning of complex pre game routines.

The NBA, unlike some other professional sports organizations, has long shown a willingness to experiment with league rules, and the preseason and NBA Developmental League (D-League) are often the testing grounds for new ideas. Rules concerning the use of zone defense were changed in the early 2000’s, which catalyzed major change in dominant playing styles.

In the last D-League season, teams’ saw their timeout count cut from eight to seven, as well as a rule forcing teams to forfeit all but two timeouts in the last two minutes of the game.

Additionally, the league instituted a rule that banned consecutive timeouts on a single dead ball, which occurs, often at the end of a game, when the offense calls a timeout to set up a play and the defense then calls their own once the players have stepped into position on the court.

Any rule changes in the NBA itself are unlikely to come in the near future though game-length and season-length are topics the league is watching. For now, experiments are just experiments, and should provide an interesting viewing opportunity for the more hardcore fans. Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins was excited, calling the preseason test a “unique experience worth participating in.”