Well, I'm here, I've done it. By some stroke of luck (I'll let you know what kind just after Draft Day), I'm sitting in the hypothetical seat of the metaphorical office of that loftiest of positions: NBA commissioner. Let's get settled in first. What's this? Ahh, a note from my predecessor. "Hi Bruno, Hope you like the digs. Enjoy that box of Cohibas sent over from ‘Cubes'. Oh, and ignore those peculiarly weighted ping pong balls in the corner - those are, um, my totems in case I ever got incepted. -Yours, D.S."
Oh, that's nice of him.
Anyway, where to begin if I were to fix/ improve the league that we all so love and adore? There's no shortage of complaints that people have about the NBA, really. Here are just some areas that I would address in my 24 hours of being a
lame duck king overlord fair and balanced commissioner.
Officiating Change #1: Superstar Treatment
For better or worse, the NBA has actively looked to change the way games are called. Over the past decade or so, we've seen the introduction of instant replay, the legalization of zone defense, and harsher rules against player-ref interaction. In one memorable Spurs-Mavs affair, Joey Crawford even experimented with employing a no-laughing policy:
Meanwhile, in the other NBA, things like this are happening:
Even if I liked Lebron (and really, I have no problem with him, despite my next few suggestions), I wouldn't be happy about him having this kind of influence.
To keep the ball rolling, how about fixing the following commonly allowed infraction?
Officiating Change #2: (Really, truly) Enforce traveling
Yep, it happens. A lot. There are more videos of NBA players getting away with it then there are steps in King James' dance moves below. Just try to count all of the stutter-steps and shuffles he makes after he corrals this rebound.
There's no reason not to crack down on this.
It's been discussed for years - let's make this happen. The East/West division of conferences absolutely works for scheduling games and developing rivalries but, come playoff time, it makes no sense for a 38-44 team in the East to make it into the postseason while a Western Conference team that's managed to get above .500 through a more competitive schedule has to sit aside.
So, what should we do?
I'd look at taking the top 6 teams from each conference, and make the final 4 total spots up for grabs for whomever the next best teams are, regardless of geographical location. This likely wouldn't shake up the West too much, but it would mean that first series for Miami would no longer be a four-game write-off.
A Hard Salary Cap
The Mariana Trench-deep pockets of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov have proven that the current constraints of team salary caps don't mean all that much. Brooklyn will be paying more money in luxury taxes alone ($80 million) than almost any other team will pay at all next season.
Given that team ownership is not always viewed by billionaire ‘investors' as a means of making money, and is instead regarded more as an ostentatious flourish, some critics might say that change is in order.
The new CBA has brought about stricter punishments against salary-cap-offenders, but it's clearly not enough. I propose a hard cap - with no taxes at all. Now, for a figure, I don't want to simply give out a totally arbitrary number, but let's say... $81,324,433. Yeah, that sounds about right (note: this is a very scientifically based cap, and I did NOT just randomly type out those last 6 digits).
Shorten the Regular Season to 66 Games
We all love games. But do more games make for a better season? Not if you're a championship-level team and just going through the motions from November to March (see: San Antonio). Not if you're an aging team and praying that your veterans don't end their seasons on the back end of a FOGAFINI (see: um, San Antonio). And not if you're a bottom-feeding tanker counting down the days until June of next year (see: half of the Eastern Conference).
Most people will tell you that 82 regular games is too many. Let's shorten it to 66 and see just how many major injuries are prevented throughout the year.
So, no tax-paying teams (or salary cap taxes, at all) and fewer games. How are we going to generate more revenue?
Corporate Sponsorship on Team Jerseys
Just kidding. Instead, how about we...
Severely Punish Tanking
"Lose" is the new "win" for many GMs who want to show their fanbases that their team is headed in a specific direction, even if that direction is, indeed, down. Middle-of-the-pack managers have acquiesced that playing for that 5-8 seed year in and year out is a surefire way to get fired somewhere down the line, and the "new" Oklahoma City "method" (see: lucking into the 2nd pick of the 2007 draft) of building through the draft has now caught on.
This year perhaps more than any other, we'll see franchises that are willing to cheapen their product in the short term in the hope of striking it rich with a big-time talent in the draft.
Let's nip this in the bud by punishing teams that position themselves for failure with fines or, possibly worse, ping pong balls in June.
Just to clarify - this wouldn't apply to teams resting players for one game (see: Spurs v. Heat, Nov. 29th, 2012), but teams that actually aim to lose for a whole season. Sixers, I'm looking at you.
The end of "one and done" - Instead use "two and done"?
In 2005, the NBA began enforcing the "one and done" rule, requiring that a player either be 19 years old and have a year of college play or, if they're an "international player", be one year removed from high school.
The rule change has received criticism on both sides. People who raise the case of Lebron - a totally NBA-ready 18-year-old manchild - say that the "one and done" rule robs NBA fans of one year of incredible talent. They also argue that it keeps someone out of high school from pursuing their dream and providing for their family.
In my opinion, one year isn't enough for anything - not for NBA teams to evaluate talent, and certainly not enough for 'student-athletes' to learn much or properly take in the college experience. All it really does is turn the college game into a type of farm league that gives the NBA one year to try and evaluate talent, as well as help build the brand and hype of incoming players. Yet, it's not working all that well, as many lottery teams tend to come back the next year. Another year could go a long way for them, as well.
If I were Commissioner for a day, I'd make it a two-year minimum for college athletes. That'd give kids another year to decide if finishing out their education is the right move, and it would (bonus!) allow the league to really gauge talent before draft day. This might even lead to lottery teams making smarter decisions with their picks, and help the NBA attain a bit more parity throughout the league.
If players want to go the Brandon Jennings route and spend a year riding the bench in Europe, so be it. They'll probably learn more about life than I did in my four years of college (just kidding, mom and dad).
So, that's it for my imaginary 24-hour reign as league commish. These are just some of the ideas that I came up with and now I ask you: Where did I go wrong? And what would you do if you were Commish for a Day?
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