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How Would 44-Minute Games Affect The NBA?

The NBA is testing a 44-minute game during the preseason, which could impact players, broadcasters and advertisers.
Posted at 8:13 PM, Oct 14, 2014

When the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics face off in a preseason matchup October 19, there'll be something a little different about the clock. 

The teams will play a 44-minute game, with four 11-minute quarters. Games have lasted 48 minutes since league play began in 1946. 

USA Today was the first outlet to report the news, noting the two teams volunteered to participate in the experiment.

In a press release Tuesday the league said it wanted to "examine the flow of a shorter game." While it might seem like a small change, if the idea caught on for a full 82-game season, it would mean a reduction of more than seven full games worth of minutes. 

SB Nation notes the league has been looking into shorter games to "engage fans more easily." Games currently run an average of two hours and 15 minutes. "The hope may be to narrow that gap down to two hours, which most closely mirrors soccer matches."

But this idea is a little bit out of left field. There had been more discussion around shortening halftime and fewer free throws as opposed to minutes. So how would the potential change affect the league?

Well it would surely be a good thing for players, right? Fewer minutes means fewer injuries, less wear and tear. Well, maybe not. Just because total minutes are decreasing doesn't necessarily mean the best players' would play any less.

Last season eight of the top ten scorers in the league averaged more than 36 minutes per game. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony led the league at nearly 39 minutes per game, which wouldn't leave much time for his backup.

If bench players became less important, their salaries would likely go down — something sure to upset the Player's Association. 

Another thing to keep in mind: television contracts. Earlier this month the league announced a historic nine-year, $24 billion deal with ESPN and Turner Sports. The shorter format would have two fewer mandatory timeouts than the current setup, meaning fewer commercial breaks.

The networks would theoretically be more open to a shorter season of 70 or 72 games, rather than shorter games. Just because there are fewer total games, doesn't mean there would necessarily be fewer televised games. But would the teams go for the idea?

According to The Wages of Wins Journal, the Miami Heat pulled in more than $1.4 million per game in ticket sales alone in the 2012-2013 season. Would teams be open to giving up five or six home games each year?

According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, who tackled the idea of a shortened game last September, while it's not an either-or proposition, there are many people in the NBA who would prefer to address the number of games first. 

He notes "it would create a scarcity effect that might eventually drive up ratings, ticket prices ... If there are fewer games, each one means more."

We should note this is just a one-game experiment and the NBA hasn't indicated it plans to make this a permanent change any time soon. It's possible the league could further experiment with the idea in the D-League or next preseason.

This video includes images from Getty Images.