A frequent criticism of the NBA is the constant stoppages at the end of close games.
Made basket. Timeout. Defensive rebound. Timeout. Can't get the ball inbounds. Timeout.
Well, there are going to be fewer timeouts this season, as the league cut each team's allotment from nine per game to seven. Just as interesting, NBA teams may call only two timeouts in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter, one fewer than before. They may have no more than four of those original seven timeouts to start the final 12 minutes.
While that is welcome news to fans and sportswriters on deadline, the endgame reduction is not what concerns Sixers coach Brett Brown.
The league also eliminated the under-9-minute TV timeouts in the second and fourth quarters. This could be a crucial change to the flow of substituting patterns, when teams generally try to get second units onto the floor. With fewer timeouts, guys may get stuck out there when there's an extended run of unstopped play because coaches might be reluctant to call a timeout.
"I feel the pain more in the first half than I do at the end of the game," Brown said, "because you're just conscious of not spending all your money [i.e. timeouts] and not have it when it counts. So you walk a line. If the game is going south, then I'll go into the fourth period a little bit poorer than I would like. Because you have to stop [opposing runs]. You can't coach afraid. Sometimes, you just have to burn a timeout."
Brown said it was reminiscent of his time overseas — he coached extensively in Australia — where stoppages and timeouts to run TV commercials were much less frequent. The games flew by, he said.
"The best example I can give is to watch the people at the scorers' table" waiting to check in, he said. "They get stuck at the scorers' table longer than they ever have in the NBA in the first half because of the new rules. It affects when you substitute and when you call timeout."
Given how careful the Sixers tend to be monitoring the playing time of their young players, Brown might be inclined to direct a player to foul to stop the clock so he can get subs in the game. Brown said that he did that in the preseason and that other teams did, too.
"I could have [Robert] Covington in the game for nine straight minutes. I don't want that," he said. "It's been an interesting preseason, from a coaching perspective, studying" all of this.
Wednesday, Oct. 25: Chris Paul, James Harden, and the Rockets make their only appearance in Philadelphia.
Saturday, Nov. 18: Defending champ Golden State's only game here. In last season's visit, Steph Curry shot a career-worst 0 for 11 on three-pointers, but the Warriors won anyway, 119-108.
Nov. 27, April 6: The Cavaliers' two visits. LeBron James has won his last 10 games against the Sixers, dating to his time with Miami.
Friday, Dec. 15: The Thunder and the three-headed monster of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony are in town. Westbrook has hung a triple-double on the Sixers in four of the last five meetings. The one time he didn't, he fell short with only nine assists. OKC is 15-1 against the Sixers with Westbrook in the lineup. Yo.
Handicapper Vegas Vic has installed the Sixers at 80-1 to win the NBA title. Those seem like high odds, but they're actually the 11th lowest. The Warriors are the prohibitive favorite at 1-2, which means if you want to win $100, you have to wager $200. You'd get your original wager back, of course.
The Cavaliers are reasonably priced at 5-1. The Celtics are 8-1. Orlando is the longest shot at 1,000-1.
The Sixers are 8-1 to win the Atlantic Division and 25-1 to win the Eastern Conference.
Vegas is tuned into fans' optimism and has posted a projected over/under for the number of Sixers wins at 40.5. The Sixers haven't had more than 40 wins since 2010-11, the first year of Doug Collins' tenure as coach, when they went 41-41. They've posted 38 wins over the last two seasons combined.
Last year, the Sixers had 28 wins and went over the preseason line of 25.5. The year before that was ugly. Their O/U was 20.5. The Sixers won 10, tank you very much.
The Bulls last year grabbed the eighth and final seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 41-41 record, edging out the Heat on a tiebreaker. Chicago, incidentally, has the fewest projected wins this season at 22.5.
The Warriors have the highest projected line at 67.5. Golden State had 67 wins last season.
OddsShark.com has the Lakers' Lonzo Ball (+$225) as a slight favorite over Ben Simmons (+$250) for rookie of the year. Markelle Fultz (+$1,000) is fourth on its sheet. Dennis Smith Jr., of Dallas, is third (+$350) … LeBron James (+$400), Kawhi Leonard (+$450) and Kevin Durant (+$500) are the top three choices for MVP. Joel Embiid is +$3,300; Simmons is +$6,600. … The numbers in parentheses are the winning payouts based on $100 wagers.
The Sixers will play the Celtics on Thursday, Jan. 11, in London. Sounded like a fun trip until we went to Expedia to check out the airfare.
Nonstop flights leaving Philadelphia on Jan. 10 and returning on Jan. 13 cost $3,335. Two-stop fare goes for $1,366. If you extend it with a Saturday night stay and return Sunday, nonstops go down to $876. Two stops cost $650. That's not including hotel, game ticket, and the mandatory five pints of Guinness.