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Report: NBA Considering Shortening Length Of Games To 44 Minutes

The Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets will play a 44-minute exhibition at the Barclays Center on Sunday. The game, which will feature 11-minute quarters, is the first legitimate implementation of the league’s ongoing consideration of shortening games from their current length of 48 minutes.

This news is courtesy of USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt. It’s pertinent to note that this is a one-time exploratory measure and not indicative of any imminent changes.

…at the recent NBA coaches’ meeting in Chicago, the length of games was a topic, and it was suggested the NBA take a look at shortening games.

“We have looked at everything that we do and are taking a fresh look at all the different things we do,” NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said. “One of the things that keeps coming up is our schedule and the length of our games. … Our coaches talked about it, and a lot of them seemed to be in favor of at least taking a look at it. We talked with our competition committee, and they were in favor of taking a look at it…”

Each quarter will have two mandatory timeouts at the first dead ball under 6:59 and the first dead ball under 2:59, and the game will have two fewer mandatory timeouts than a normal game. In a 48-minute game, there are three mandatory timeouts in the second and fourth quarters, and the first mandatory timeout comes at the first dead ball under 5:59…

Zillgitt also writes that the league might further test shortened games in the D-League this season, and is specifically interested in learning how 44-minute games impact substitution patterns, “flow,” and their current average length of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

We’ve long been a proponent of trimming the length of NBA games. But 44 minutes? The FIBA World Cup was just the latest indication that a 40-minute game that includes 10-minute quarters is the perfect compromise. Those games came and went in an extremely pleasing manner, hardly leaving you short-changed but also wanting more.

Why that exact model is unrealistic for the NBA is its lack of television timeouts. There’s only one automatic TV break in FIBA games, and if a team takes a timeout before five minutes remain in any period, that intermission takes the place of the necessary TV one. It’s a perfect system, but the league’s media partners would be forced to sacrifice piles of advertising dollars by allowing even fewer commercial interruptions than they would in a 44-minute game.

There’s also historical impact to consider. The NBA has utilized 48-minute contests since it was founded in 1946. Shortening games would theoretically – and hopefully – limit court-time of star players, giving them fewer opportunities to compile career-long statistics comparable to legends of the past. That’s an inconsequential byproduct to us, especially considering that the modern game is already hedging towards less playing time for top players. But you can bet the league’s fanbase wouldn’t be happy about it.

The NBA considers changes of a similar magnitude on a yearly basis. We like that Adam Silver’s league is progressive and willing to change. But any game-shortening is surely a long way off, and we struggle to understand the benefits of cutting them by only four minutes compared to eight.

Are you in favor of shortening games?

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