When the NBA G League debuted in Birmingham last year, I was excited that I’d be able to go to Legacy Arena and enjoy a brand of basketball that was both high-quality and innovative.
A proving ground for players hoping to level up to the Association, the circuit is also a laboratory for rule experimentation. And if you know anything about me, you know I love seeing a rulebook get the mad scientist treatment.
In 2022-23, the NBA’s feeder system is making arguably its boldest tweak yet – and I’m all for it.
This season the league will use a Final Target Score during all regular season overtime games and the fourth quarter of each Winter Showcase contest in Las Vegas. The rules that were already in place create fun and fast competition, but this makes a good thing even better.
Some version of the “Elam Ending” is something I’ve hoped would come to the G League sooner than later. It’s been used three years running in the NBA All-Star Game and has grown in popularity thanks to The Basketball Tournament (TBT).
“It’s a new concept for me, something we will research from an analytical perspective as well as watch film of a few other leagues who have implemented it,” said Birmingham head coach T.J. Saint, entering his first season at the helm of the New Orleans Pelicans affiliate. “If you are down by a large margin once it goes to Elam, it can allow you to make a comeback and win the game without the clock being an inhibitor whereas in a normal game, the clock can really end any hope of a potential comeback.
“I definitely think it can add excitement for the fans with every game ending in a game-winning shot.”
In the TBT, the game clock is turned off after the first dead ball with under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Then eight points are added to the leading team’s tally to create a target score which, once reached, ends the game.
For all 31 G League Winter Showcase games, the fourth quarter will be untimed and the object is to tally the leading team’s score plus 25 points. So, if the Squadron advances to the Winter Showcase and leads an opponent 100-90 after three, the first team to score 125 wins.
Teams are separated into four regional pods during the Showcase Cup and play 16 games against each other. The clubs with the best winning percentage in each pod and the next four teams across the league with the best winning percentages advance to the Winter Showcase December 19-22.
Once the regular season (32 games for each team) gets underway on December 27, G League contests will feature traditional quarters. However, if a game is still knotted after 48 minutes, the first team to reach the tied score plus seven points in the extra period wins.
Malcolm Hill currently plays for the Chicago Bulls on a two-way contract with the Windy City Bulls, but was a member of the Squadron last season. During an early practice session, I was talking with him about the rule variations in the G League and asked him what he thought about the Elam Ending.
“It’s fun for sure, depending on who you’re asking.” he said. “Definitely for fans and a lot of players, but there are players like me who like to stick to the traditional things as far as the game clock. But it’s different and interesting.”
Target score aside, the developmental league will continue to play the “greatest hits” when it comes to rule revisions.
The One Free Throw Rule is back, meaning a lone foul shot is attempted in all free throw situations during the first 46 minutes of a game (traditional foul shot rules apply over the final two minutes of the fourth quarter). It’s worth the value of whatever the total number of free throws would be in an NBA game. In other words, if a player is fouled while attempting a 3-pointer and sinks his charity toss, he’s credited with three points.
Two infraction rules I’m glad to see return are the Transition Take Foul and Away-From-The-Play Foul.
The Transition Take Foul is called when a defender commits a foul without making a play on the ball; fouls an offensive player who has the ball or has just passed it away; or fouls during a transition scoring opportunity. The fouled team can pick any player on the floor to shoot one free throw and keep the ball at the “point of interruption.”
And the Away-From-The-Play Foul is defined as “any illegal contact by the defense which occurs either deliberately away from the immediate area of offensive action, prior to the ball being released on a throw-in, or both.” When this happens personal and team fouls are assessed, and one foul shot can be taken by any player in the game at the time of the foul. This decreases the likelihood of a team resorting to “Hack-a-Shaq.”
Other twists include the coach’s challenge and 14-second shot clock reset after offensive rebounds, which originated in the G League and were ultimately adopted by the NBA. (A complete list of rules can be found in the “NBA G League 101” section of gleague.nba.com).
The Squadron opens Showcase Cup play on Sunday, November 6, when the Lakeland Magic comes to Legacy Arena for a 5 p.m. tip.
Between the talent on the floor and the rules on the books, it should be a blast.