A fun game to play while watching the NBA: Who will take that halfcourt shot?

A fun game to play while watching the NBA: Who will take that halfcourt shot?
February 12, 2013, 11:00 am
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This problem has been going on in the NBA since before I began covering the league in 1983 and I'm shocked the league hasn't made a simple rule change that would totally remedy the situation.

The problem? (With a salute to dailythunder.com, which did a great job of discussing this thing with OKC players.) Well, I'm getting to that but first let me ask you what's the most fun and exciting shot -- aside from a thundering dunk -- you can see at a game? It's the three-quarter court, halfcourt, or just plain long-distance desperation heave at the end of a quarter going in, right? And now for the problem that's been going on for decades: NBA players don't want to shoot them and, in fact, go to great lengths to avoid them.

Those shots are extremely low percentage and over an 82-game season where a good shooter might find himself taking 15 or 20 of those shots, that's likely 15 or 20 more field-goal misses on his stat sheet. And in case you don't know about this, statistics mean dollars in professional sports. Thus, the very best shooters, the ones with the flashy field-goal percentages from long range, are usually the least likely to take those exciting shots. They just don't want to absorb those misses on their stat sheet -- so much so they do something I've always considered borderline unethical.

They take the shots, all right, but they intentionally take them just a split-second AFTER the horn sounds ending the quarter. It's a fun thing to watch for at NBA games -- find the guys who intentionally do this. You'll be surprised how frequently it occurs.

My first year covering the league I often sat next to Dave Twardzik, the ex-Blazer who once served as Bill Schonely's color analyst on the radio. He'd lean over, mute his mic, and say, "Watch this, no way this guy is going to take this shot..." and sure enough, someone would turn loose a desperation heave just after the horn. It became a game between us and to this day I take note when players do this.

But I blame the league. This should have been dealt with years ago. At college games, the official scorer has the power to not count desperation end-of-quarter shots in the official field-goal attempt category. And they shouldn't count. They really aren't shots, they're prayers looking for an answer. The NBA needs to make this long-overdue tiny change in scoring rules as soon as possible.

And if those long heaves didn't count as misses? Man, you'd see some good shooters willingly taking those shots more often -- and probably making more of them.