The NBA has a lot it could do to improve. Everyone knows this. Even the players. Even the owners. So why don't they do something about it? You guessed it. Money. That little detail aside, here are nine things the NBA could do to improve itself...easily.
#1 Make the regular season a lot shorter. We all know the lockout-induced season this year is only going to be 66 games. This is probably a little bit too short. But 82 games, a normal season these days, is way too long. Players get hurt, they don't play defense, and they struggle to make it to the end of the season. For many fans, watching the playoffs is the extent of their fanaticism. This is sad. Watching players slog through a too-long season is also so. Somewhere around 70 games would be perfect. College baseball players double the amount of games they play in the pros, and football players play around 50% more. Basketball players play three times as many. Time to change that.
#2 Change the referee system. First of all, hire more referees so that players and referees don't develop relationships, bad or good. This can only lead to bias in calling the game. Also, show us stats on referees. And please hire more athletic refs while you're at it, possibly even some ex-NBA players. The ones you have now can't keep up.
#3 Slash players’ salaries. This doesn't even need an explanation. Players make too much, which leads to ridiculous ticket prices, and ridiculous prices for concessions. I do not need to pay nine bucks for a 12 ounce beer. Owners, coaches and admin don't need to make as much, either.
#4 Cut back on the number of playoff teams. Teams with 39 wins don't need to participate in the playoffs. It's not competitive, and it's not good for ratings. I know this issue is once again about money, but come on! We don't need to see playoff sweep after playoff sweep in the first round. It's not fun for us to watch, or for the low seeded team to play, when we pretty much know the outcome.
#5 Bring fairness to NBA scheduling. Teams do not need to play on back-to-back days. This would only be fair if all teams got an equal number of these disasters, but they don't. So, in the spirit of fair play, let's try to eliminate these from teams’ schedules. There are often scheduling conflicts at certain stadiums that make this difficult, but if it isn't possible, at least try to make it equal.
#6 No more minimum age rule. One-and-done should go the way of the Dodo. Players who know they're going pro after a year of college barely complete a semester of school. One semester of college? And then you can go pro? Who thought of this rule? These kids are getting nothing out of college, and the schools are doing everything they can to get around this rule, including borderline cheating. Get rid of it and set up some sort of more sophisticated developmental league.
#7 Guaranteed money? No more. Guaranteed salaries in the NBA have caused more problems than they have solved. Signing bonuses, or less years guaranteed would probably work out better. Or guarantees that only come into effect based on performance. We don't need to see any more players slacking in their later years because they have a huge guaranteed salary. No more faking injuries, or taking too long to get surgery and waiting until the regular season begins, please.
#8 Make the trade rules more lenient. With the recent trade issues, it's obvious that the rules need to be changed. I understand not wanting one team to be a dynasty, but come on. Let the trades happen. GMs are not stupid people; usually they have the ability to figure out what's best for their team. There should still be a "that's a ridiculous trade" clause in the rules where it's obvious there's a fire-sale going on, but let the trades happen.
#9 Finally, make the luxury tax fair. I understand the concept behind the tax, but it keeps the small market teams down and the larger market teams on top. It needs to be changed to be based on revenue and the size of that teams market for it to work. Minnesota and Chicago are way different in terms of size, so why doesn't this matter when it comes to the luxury tax. The penalties are the same for both teams, which really makes it hard for the Timberwolves to field a competitive team. Change the luxury tax now. Tax the wealthy.
All of these changes would make the NBA not only a better product for fans to watch, but a better place for the players to play. Change is not always a bad thing.
Rich Spaulding is CEO of Gold Star Games, a tailgate gear and cornhole bags supplier.