Assuming a moderately progressive posture at its annual meeting, the National Basketball Association has passed several measures to improve the pro game and the league's image.Beginning next season the NBA will junk bonus free throws, install collapsible rims, and crack down on illegal zone defenses. The league also will ban teams from contacting undergraduates until they've decided to turn pro.
A plan to start the 1981-82 season 20 days later than usual was also announced. This shift is considered a positive step for two reasons. It should prevent any overlap with the baseball season and World Series and it opens the door for more favorable playoff TV coverage. The recent playoffs fell during a key TV ratings period, when regularly scheduled shows forced late-night taped telecasts of several games. By side-stepping this ratings period, the NBA's championship series is assured of prime-time coverage.
That's fine and dandy, but how many people want to watch basketball in June? The season's new time frame is hardly ideal, but the league apparently feels it's the best solution to a difficult problem.
Maybe the NBA should consider a radical approach to its dilemma, shortening the entire season rather than just starting later. Granted, the regular season and playoffs might need some trimming to end before May, but possibly not much. The key would be to take a page from baseball and play regular-season games in series. Many travel and rest days could be eliminate d this way.