There’s been plenty of discussion of how the final few minutes of NBA games tend to drag out thanks to timeouts and fouls, and the league now appears to be actively looking for solutions. As AJ Neuharth-Keusch noted at USA Today Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said this week that there will be a “fresh look” at the issue this offseason:
During a press conference in London before the Denver Nuggets’ 140-112 rout of the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, Silver noted that the league tracks the end of games — specifically the number of timeouts that are allowed — “very closely” and said the NBA’s competition committee will likely take a “fresh look” at game length at the end of the season.
“It’s something that I know all of sports are looking at right now, and that is the format of the game and the length of time it takes to play the game,” Silver said. “Obviously people, particularly millennials, have increasingly short attention spans, so it’s something as a business we need to pay attention to. … When the last few minutes of the game take an extraordinary amount of time, sometimes it’s incredibly interesting for fans, other times it’s not.”
Like many things attributed to millennials, this may not be particularly fair to blame on them exclusively. There are plenty of older NBA fans who have complained about the way the final minutes can drag out, too, and it’s not just a question of attention span. It’s much easier to stay focused on something that flows smoothly than something with numerous interruptions (why so many have complained about televised football’s commercial-kickoff-commercial moments), and the final minutes of NBA games can be incredibly jerky, especially in close games.
However, there may be a point that those disruptions are particularly disastrous with fans who are more willing to switch to something else quickly when they’re not entertained, and many of those fans may be younger.
It’s also worth noting that the NBA has recently discussed allowing viewers to purchase just the final few minutes of games. That could be a compelling option for younger viewers, casual fans, hardcore fans who have to be elsewhere during games and more, and it might also increase the focus on providing a good finish. If the last five minutes are suddenly being sold as a standalone product, they’ll have to stand on their own. They might do a better job of that if they’re smoothly-flowing and quick to wrap up, rather than filled with interruptions and delays.
Regardless of this look at games’ finishes is actually about millennials or not, it seems to be an idea worth consideration at the very least. Now, this shouldn’t be a change that’s made lightly or trivially, and it should be one where all the potential ramifications are examined. For example, would reducing the number of timeouts you can call late potentially reduce the number of comebacks, and what effect would that have on viewership?
There are plenty of different approaches that could be explored, too, including just shortening timeouts (or offering some timeouts that don’t include time huddles, but just stop the clock) or making fouling less appealing.