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An open letter from BTN's Mike Hall: Stop shortening fields of play (We're looking at you and your game-winning shot, LeBron James)

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mike_hall_big_ten.jpgDear Kevin and Kyle and your swarm of devoted fans and Kevin's mom,

I have a major problem with the NBA playoffs.

Now at any point in the last decade that problem would have been "I don't care."  But it's not.  I've really been caught up in the playoffs this year.  For the first time since Jordan was last a Bull, I feel this has been a wonderful postseason.  Especially the conference finals.  But something has to stop.

Arguably the best moment of the playoffs thus far came this past week; the biggest shot of LeBron James' career.  What a wonderful moment.  And what a crock.
It never should have happened ... at least not that easily.  It's a tie game and Orlando has the ball with time winding down. They masterfully tick the clock down so that when Hedo Turkoglu hits the 12 footer there is only one second left. They handled it perfectly. They deserved to win. But they didn't because of a ridiculous rule.

A rule that states following a made basket by Team A, and a time out is called, Team B gets a gift wrap with a pretty bow. After the Magic took the two point lead, the Cavs got the ball three-fourths of the way up the court! Think how much easier it is to score when you're inbounding in your own half of the court. They didn't have to advance it at all.

The court is 94 feet long. The hash marks are 28 feet from the endline. Or 66 feet from the other endline. That means the way the NBA does it, they're letting one team inbound ... without having to travel 70% of the court! Why? What have they done to deserve that other than saving a timeout?!

Now, I know why the NBA does this. It's to make classic endings -- like the Lebron shot in game two -- more frequent. And its no doubt that it works.

But ... Duh!

You're giving them the ball in a place that makes it so easy to score. They can run whatever they want. Its cheap! And its unfair to the other team.

Part of the magic of the Christian Laettner shot in 1992 was that they had to inbound it all the way down the court to Laettner. Duke earned that win. Partly because Kentucky earned the right to force Duke to find a way to travel the length of the court in only 2.1 seconds.

When you let a team inbound it from their end, you're shortening the court. You're shrinking part of the game. It's like you're taking away from the game, in order to run an exercise. And you're doing so in the important, final moments of the game. It reminds me of the way overtime is handled in football.

The popular point of view is that the NFL does it wrong, and college does it right. I couldn't disagree more. Most will tell you that the NFL rules favor the team that gets the ball first. Statistically that's true. But so what. That doesn't mean the rule should change. Statistically a lot of  people watch "Jon and Kate plus 8."  That doesn't mean I need to alter my TV viewing habits to catch this quality, high-minded program.

So the team that first gets the ball often scores? Well, I have a solution -- stop 'em from scoring.  This isn't arena football where you score pretty much every time you get the ball. If you register points on just 5 possessions in an NFL game, you're likely to win. Defense matters. You count on your defense to win games. The D is equally as important as the O. And even if it weren't ... if you want to win the game, and you know you have to stop your opponent this possession or they win and you don't stop them, then you deserve to lose! That's fair.

The other main argument is that in college football you get more exciting endings. Well just like with this NBA rule ... Duh! Of course you will. You're giving them the ball at the 25 yard line. That's not football. That's a drill. That's an exercise. You're shortening the field.

Now, I don't want to be a guy who just complains and doesn't offer up a solution. Although the college hoops game seems to be fine by still making you run or pass the ball the length of the court to score. But if the NBA insists on getting more frequent buzzer beaters, OK ... fine.  But how about you push them back to half court?  Or maybe the first hash mark?  To me that's still too far, but its better than where they let it happen now.

If you disagree with me, please let me know. Seriously. Explain to me what it is that makes it fair. Send me a note at twitter. My name there is @BTNMikeHall. 'Cause I feel they're cheapening the truly wonderful moments that basketball can bring.


Mike Hall is an anchor at the Big Ten Network. His highly entertaining video blog "My Call with Mike Hall" is located here. Previously for Sports Pros(e), Mike wrote an open letter defending of the current BCS bowl system. 

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3 Comments

i couldnt agree more this rule forces a team to almost have to wait too long just to ensure that the other teams doesnt have a chance to counter. Unless you're fouled in the backcourt there should be no reason to let them inbound the ball a the opposing bench


M. Hall -

It seems that you're going to be a regular guest blogger here at Sports Pros(e)... welcome!

I enjoyed your day out suit shopping with K. Allen (remember to wear brown shoes & belt with khaki pants) and have enjoyed your work on the Big Ten Network.

In 1976 - 1977, the NBA instituted the rule you speak of. It allows for an inbounds play for the last two minutes, the offensive team has the option of moving the ball to midcourt or taking it at the spot following a timeout.

I agree that it's a bit silly to cut the court in half but that's the way the rules have been for over 30 years and I suggest you just deal with it.

Instead, be glad that the following rules have been removed from the NBA's rule book (http://www.nba.com/analysis/rules_history.html):

* 1946-47: Zone defenses outlawed on January 11, 1947.

* 1950-51: After a free throw is made in the last three minutes, there is a jump ball (between the player who committed the foul and the player fouled) instead of possession for the team that committed the foul. This was made in hopes to eliminate deliberate fouling and roughness.

* 1990-91: :00.1 is needed on the clock to tip the ball in the basket whether the shot is made or not.

I look forward to talking hoops with you!!

Linda S.

So...the rule has been on the books for 32 years, and Mike Hall is just NOW complaining about it?

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