For many years, people have been wondering how to fix professional and collegiate basketball. I contend that the game isn't broken, but if it returned to its playground roots, we might just see more of the Amazing that the NBA and TV wants to see. By that I mean simply: get rid of the game clock.
On the playground, there is no clock. There's no buzzer, There's only the score. Play to 10 (or 21, whatever), win by two. Winner stays, loser walks. Simple and effective, this style of play delivers a fair and entertaining way for most of us who grew up playing hoops to enjoy a few hours of basketball competition. The game doesn't slow down for guys trying to milk the clock. It's all out from possession to possession until the game is over. Players pass more, drive the lane more, shoot more, etc., and basically play more basketball. Breathers are for after the game is decided or if you literally can't run anymore.
What if we took this philosophy to the professional or collegiate ranks? I think the NBA would greatly benefit from a playground mentality.
The rules could be as follows: First team to 100 wins, but has to win by 2. Put quarter breaks when the first team reaches 25 and 75 and have halftime when the first team scores 50. Let there continue to be timeouts, fouls, substitutions, and all of the other usual rules of the game. Keep the 24-second clock to keep the game moving so teams don't just hold onto the ball for a breather. Stop letting teams inbound the ball from half court after a timeout. For the college game, the game would be decided when the first team scores 80 (since the college game is 20% shorter than the NBA based on clock length), again with a win by 2, with a halftime at 40. Making scoring the fulcrum of the game, rather than a clock, which can malfunction, would lead to a pronounced increase in the tempo of the game.
Yes, I understand that the game would lose some of its last-ditch heaves for buzzer-beaters, but I think teams will be able to play more strategy and the game would be more team-oriented. And with the 24-second clock, you would still see some buzzer-beaters, just no 3/4-court prayers that, more often than not, go unanswered and don't even touch glass. I think games would be shorter, players would move faster, and strategy would become more important. The stale gambit of clearing out one side of the court to milk the clock would most likely go away. Thre would be no more "slow-down" game - a strategy that really only serves to cheapen the spirit of basketball - and instead, the ability to move the ball, pass, defend, and shoot would determine the outcome. And that is ultimately what basketball is really about.