http://www.parade.com/news/2010/06/06-6-ways-to-fix-the-nba.html (They still don't get it...but some of the posters responding to it do) <div id="exclusiveText">Pro basketball is in need of a game change</div> <h1>6 Ways to Fix the NBA</h1> <div id="kicker"> by Stephen Fried </div> <div id="publicationDate">Published: 06/06/2010</div><div ="main"></div> <div id="auto-related--container"> <div id="cen"> <div id="HP--center"> <div ="main-col-left"> <div ="inner-col-left"> <div id="slideshowContainer"> <div ="photoContainer"> <div ="related-line"> </div> <div ="inner-col-right"> </div> </div> <div ="main-col-right"> </div> </div> </div> </div></div></div></div>Pro baseball might be America's pastime and pro football our most popular and profitable game, but professional basketball, our other major homegrown sport, has the most recognizable and exciting American athletes in the world. Yet at the same time, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is facing one of its most challenging moments ever. The league is finishing what commissioner David Stern concedes to PARADE is its most economically disastrous season ever -- $400 million in the red, nearly twice what it has lost in tough years before. Fewer fans are going to games, the result of a bad economy but also of what a veteran NBA observer calls "too many meaningless games, too many watered-down rosters." The competitive balance of the league could be further upset on July 1, when LeBron James and the most gifted group of hoops free agents ever will be able to switch teams. And next year's expiration of the collective bargaining agreement raises the possibility of a new relationship among the NBA, its players, and its fans, along with the threat of a strike or lockout. As a season-ticket holder for the Philadelphia 76ers and a die-hard fan, I'm concerned about what the future holds for the league, but I'm also intrigued by the prospects for change. NBA attendance was soft again this year -- 18 of 30 teams saw a drop -- and the only reason the numbers weren't worse was the desperate ploys some teams used to fill seats. At 76ers games, traditional halftime entertainment has been almost entirely replaced by local school dance troupes, whose members and families are charged admission and urged to sell tickets themselves. When I ask about the empty seats, commissioner Stern answers: "What the attendance shows is that markets are very different. Some are more sensitive to the quality of the product on the floor," seemingly acknowledging that some fans are staying home because of weak games. However, he points to tweaks the NBA made this year that created faster and higher-scoring games. Stern is also encouraged by the league's explosive growth both online and abroad and promises, "Over the next several years, you'll see an NBA with divisions in Europe." He places much of the blame for the league's problems on contractual issues, including guaranteed salaries that have locked teams into paying players exorbitant sums of money. The NBA's economic structure "does not work," he says, "and we need a sustainable business model." The balance of power within the NBA has been skewed for a while. In the past few years, perhaps only five teams have seriously contended for championships, and in the past 26 years, only seven cities have enjoyed victory parades. Compare that to the NFL, where nine different teams have won Super Bowls in a dozen years. And the amazing free-agent class up for grabs next month -- which also includes Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Dirk Nowitzki -- could lead to a greater disparity in talent, since the same handful of teams are likely to stockpile the All-Stars. Even more important to the NBA's future is the 2011 expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, which establishes the rules for the division of revenues, player contracts, trades, and the salary cap. While stalled talks could lead to a strike or lockout -- the last one wrecked the 1998-99 season with the cancellation of 30-plus games -- few believe that will happen. But as negotiations heat up, the NBA is heading into a fascinating period when there are more chances to change, improve, or mess up the game than ever before. "We need to grow this game," says superagent David Falk, who represented Michael Jordan and reps other top players today. The changes are "going to be very, very extreme, because I think the times are extreme." Stern says changes are up to the league's rules committee but admits to one "quirk as a fan." He thinks the offensive interference rules should be abolished, letting "anyone do anything with the ball above the rim." Here, according to a few NBA watchers, are six more ways to revive the sport we love -- some practical, some improbable, all worth considering. SIX SAVES 1. CHANGE THE FOUL-OUT RULES. "Instead of ejecting a player after six foul," says agent Steve Mountain, who represents Orlando's Jameer Nelson, "assess a technical for fouls six and seven, and eject after eight. This would keep the best players in the game longer." 2. INCREASE SCORING. "Shorten the 24-second shot clock to 20 seconds to make for more possessions," Falk says. "Or create a four-point play. People thought the three-point shot would destroy the game, but it added to it instead." 3. RAISE THE AGE LIMIT. "You should have to be out of high school for three years to play in the NBA," Falk says. Playing college hoops would allow athletes to develop a fan base that they could carry with them into the pros. 4. ENCOURAGE QUIRK. "There's a reason why Charles Barkley, who is retired, is still getting endorsements," says Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim, who has covered the NBA for 13 years, "and, say, Tim Duncan and Carmelo Anthony aren't. Today, the players with personality often have the color bleached out of them." Blogger Bethlehem Shoals of FanHouse.com advises, "They should Twitter all the time. It could be a lifeline to these guys' personalities." 5. CHANGE THE TRADE RULES. "Eliminate or significantly reduce rules that require salaries of traded players to match up," Mountain says. 6. SHORTEN THE SEASON. The NBA's season comprises 82 games. Reducing the number of contests could make each one matter much more to players and fans alike. As Falk explains, "In pro football, there are only 16 games, so every game is critical."