Mike D’Antoni ran an offensive system known as seven seconds or less, so he likes things fast. Good thing, because NBA coaches find things come at them more quickly this season.
They are losing time and timeouts, with fewer days to prepare before the regular season and fewer chances to talk things over during games. Throw in new rules legislating how they can rest players, and there are plenty of adjustments even for veteran coaches.
“I think it’s good,” said D’Antoni, the NBA coach of the year with Houston last year. “Take stuff out of coaches’ hands, because we just screw it up anyway. So it’s better for the players.”
Among the changes:
Tuesday’s start is the NBA’s earliest since 1980. It’s a week earlier than normal, with the maximum number of preseason games cut from eight to six.
Timeouts are reduced from 18 to 14, with each team having seven. They will be limited to two during the last three minutes of games, instead of the previous rule that permitted three timeouts in the final two minutes.
Teams can be fined $100,000 or more for resting healthy players during national TV games, and are discouraged from resting multiple healthy players in the same game or sitting them in road games.
Halftime will be 15 minutes for all games and the league plans to be diligent about starting the clock as soon as the first half ends. There previously was a minute or two longer for national TV games, and sometimes the clock wouldn’t start until all players had cleared the floor.
That change caught the attention of D’Antoni, who noted that in some arenas there is a longer walk from the benches to the locker rooms.
“So instead of showing 10 clips at halftime, you might only be able to show two or three,” D’Antoni said.
Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, said the goal wasn’t to shorten the length of games, which run about 2 hours, 15 minutes. He said the league wanted the games to have a better flow, and worked with the coaches and Competition Committee, which includes some coaches, during the summer on the changes.
Spruell said coaches were fine with the removal of the under-9 minute timeouts in the second and fourth quarters, feeling they came too soon after the quarters started. There will now be two mandatory timeouts in each quarter, at the under-7 and under-3 minute marks.
Even at the end of games, coaches acknowledged there were too many stoppages. “As a head coach you always want more timeouts. You want to have that flexibility at the end of the game to be able to help your team,” Miami’s Erik Spoelstra said. “But when I’m watching games, I want there to be less. I do. I want there to be less timeouts and for the games to go a little bit quicker, particularly at the end. You want to just see the action.”
All timeouts will now be 75 seconds. Full timeouts were formerly 90 seconds. “Before you have the little pow-wow for a long timeout, the coaches try to get reacquainted and figure out where you’re going to eat dinner,” D’Antoni joked. “But now you’ve got to go in and actually coach.”
Spruell said the league didn’t get a lot of pushback from coaches on the suggested changes, even coming around on the resting rules.
“I’m just happy Adam Silver gave us some good guidelines to follow when it comes to that so we don’t feel like we’re cheating our fans,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “That was one good thing that came out of the coaches’ meetings, Adam Silver’s leadership on that.”
Player health was one reason for the shorter preseason. By adding the extra week to the regular season, the league reduced back-to-back games and has no teams playing four in five nights for the first time.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said the shorter preseason wouldn’t matter to most teams, since they usually run a similar system from year to year unless there was a coaching change, and there were none.
His team is different. The Knicks are largely scrapping the triangle offense they ran when Phil Jackson was president and redefining roles with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony traded. They’ve had a number of nagging injuries and may not see some combinations play together until the games count.
“It’s one of those years that maybe you wish there was eight exhibition games, but it is what it is and we just have to work,” Hornacek said. There’s also a change for general managers in the form of an earlier trade deadline.
Previously the Thursday after the All-Star Game, now it’s the Thursday 10 days before it. Spruell said in discussions with GMs, they felt that would benefit the traded players, who would have the break to acclimate themselves to their new cities.
So there’s plenty that’s new, but Spoelstra said they will all catch on. “Whenever there’s rules changes, regardless, players or coaches, you eventually adapt and we’ll do that as well,” he said.