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Commissioner for one day in the NBA: a small ripple

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Shorter regular season? More teams in bigger cities? Call more travels? Greater punishment for flops? Nope. There are macro and micro changes we can make and as commissioner, trying to make both with one move is a goal worth fighting for.

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There are a myriad of selective issues the NBA has going for them, and conversely, the same amount of problems that plague the league year in and year out.

For every transcendent, international superstar like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James; there's the unavoidable topic of flopping, unnecessarily long replay reviews and the ineffectiveness of the preventive rules in the lottery. That's not to say that the NBA is about to fall apart anytime soon; the lockout remedied some issues and if there's a sport facing a crisis, we don't have to look farther than America's favorite sport itself. You know, the one that's holding a wake for its seeming increase of season-ending injuries per week.

But if we asked each and every person if there's a singular fantastical move they suddenly assume, it'll likely revolve around the idea of controlling something, fixing something, and doing it all for the "greater good", however relative that is. The "Commissioner for a Day" theme falls into that category. As much as the NBA might consume our lives, there's plenty to choose from when debating what to "fix". In this imaginary world where I can do anything and everything, it's only fitting I set some ground rules for myself.

To go through a laundry list of flaws is a bit bland and lacking reality. It's not necessarily a pragmatic ideal to shorten the regular season or to place multiple teams in bigger, higher-revenue (projected) cities. So the moment you can get the approval of the owners or convince the TV deals to lose money, let me know. There are solutions to be found, but not without the tedious circle jerk-around of internal politics and infrastructural obstacles. And you thought trying to swing a trade in your fantasy football league was hard? Let's look at the arena change from Oakland to San Francisco for example. Even though Joe Lacob will continue to voice optimism on a 2017 opening date, odds are it won't happen. Politics and realistically unlikely scenarios aren't going to just go away when you turn commissioner, and that's why I'll advocate for a single change as I stitch my Tywin Lannister/David Stern suit on. For a day. Because this is all doable in 24 hours.

The Problem

Ever since the hand-check rule was applied, it's caused a bit of a chasm between the "old-school" basketball viewers and the "new-school" guys, forging the argument between what seemed to be a tougher defensive time in the 1980s and a much more free-flowing offensive style in the present. Gone are the Michael Jordan hand in the gut on the perimeter; instead we see quick whistles on players bodying up, thus giving the offensive player an inherent advantage before the possession begins. The game is aesthetically, and perhaps selfishly, prettier when the ball bounces around on the perimeter, bodies slashing and legs cutting, all without the incessant pounding of the ball from post players or isolation wings.

But in today's NBA, there's an infatuation, and the Golden State Warriors are guilty of this more so than many other teams, with boxing in the paint and forcing teams to shoot midrange jumpers. I hate it. It's like playing a zone defense and if you like the clumsy, awkward pace of a zone, go watch 45-41 college basketball games.

David Lee. I just YouTube'd NBA defensive three-second violations and that popped up. I swear. Seriously, don't blame the messenger.

But he has the right idea. Stay in the lane, don't guard anyone because more likely than not, the power forward can't shoot (Paul Millsap can, but this is Lee we're talking about), and cut off all driving lanes before the guards can even get their play going.

With Andrew Bogut unable to shift out on pick-and-rolls, he often stood in the paint, pretending to help guys off drives but mostly keeping a foot in the restricted area so he could contest shot without moving more than a step or two away. If the NBA has a three-second rule on defense, they should enforce it, making this the only rule I'd change as commissioner.

How It's Done

Simple. Make the referees actually enforce the rule that's already in place. In other words, devise a stricter implementation process. There's no tried and true formula to this, and the thought of a retroactive robot umpire, the way we seem to heading to now—with the rule change in reviews increasing by the year—only slows down the pace more, making my Commissioner duty and dream a bit ironic.

Potential Returns

And here is perhaps the trickiest part of this change. For those that value defense and the way the game was played in the olden days, there are certain to be cries of outrage as basketball moves towards a game filled with players that must be able to shoot, play defense and wholly versatile. Players like Roy Hibbert can't camp in the middle of the paint waiting for LeBron James to drive in, then knocking him to the ground. Does this prevent collisions? Probably not, who knows. But it does fit into the style of the league in which the general managers have seemingly accepted. There's a reason why defensively-deficient players like Monta Ellis and offensively-challenged players like Tony Allen aren't signed to huge deals. LIke the NFL, the increase of penalties for helmet-to-helmet contact and ticky-tack interference calls—along with an overall pass-happy league, have led to greater offense. Holding Aaron Rodgers to 250 yards and two touchdowns? That's a damn good day for the defense.

Though I don't want every game mirroring that of the defense-less Warriors of the early 2010s, a strictly enforced defensive three-second rule would cause quite the ripple effect for many teams. The need for zone-y set defenses should go by the wayside and allow the freedom for guards and wings to drive in without fear of a big man sitting there for half the shot clock. There will always be a grey area with which we'll debate the premises of true defense; rules curtailing an easier offensive possession, but it isn't as if I am calling for something that hasn't been discussed or that the players don't know. The adjustment period for refs and players won't last long, or have a tangible effect on the game, but it should allow more movement for offenses and defenses alike, in theory.

And this would make me a great commissioner. In theory.