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Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets will play a 44-minute exhibition game

The NBA will experiment with shorter games by having the Celtics and Nets square off in a 44-minute preseason game.

Jared Wickerham

Forty-eight minutes. Four quarters split equally into twelve minute intervals. That's how long we've come to expect the typical NBA game to last, but as the attention span of younger generations of fans becomes increasingly shorter, the league is forced to adapt.

The NBA announced this week that they will experiment this preseason by having the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets square off in a 44-minute exhibition game on Sunday, October 19. One minute will be shaved off the end of each quarter, leaving the game with four quarters that each last 11 minutes. Two mandatory timeouts will also be eliminated - one in the second quarter and another in the fourth quarter. The clock will stop on the first dead ball with less than 6:59 left in each quarter and again with under 2:59, unless teams have already used timeouts in the quarter.

"I appreciate the NBA's long history of forward thinking and willingness to try new ideas," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in a statement. "We told the NBA that we'd be happy to participate in this trial during a preseason game."

The attention span of fans isn't the only reason the league is looking into shorter games. I for one count myself among many who believe the NBA regular season lasts too long. The grueling 82-game season lasts well beyond the point it should take to determine which teams are worthy of a trip to the postseason, which results in several teams coasting through the final few weeks of the season.

It's not uncommon for elite teams to go on cruise control through long stretches and then attempt to suddenly flip the switch once the games start to matter again. The calendar is also cluttered with back-to-back games that often result in worn out teams sluggishly going through the motions on their way to a likely defeat.

You may have heard the term "schedule loss" -- a term used to describe when a team glances at their schedule and can already prepare for a let down based solely on when it occurs. If it's the fourth game in five nights on the road, the team won't enter with much confidence, no matter who they are playing.

Teams playing without proper rest between games are more likely to be too worn out to play at their best. This applies mostly to star players that see heavy minutes on the court and those stars are the ones fans pay big money to see. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't build a habit of resting his veteran stars for certain games throughout the season just because it amuses him to anger the league and TV networks (well, that might be part of his reason). He does it because he realizes the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint, so it's important to ensure his aging players are healthy and well rested by the time the postseason begins.

Having too many games clustered together also limits the amount of practice time teams have to try to work on things that will help them improve throughout the season. This is particularly troublesome in the second half of the season, when many teams have acquired new talent around the trade deadline and often don't have the time to properly incorporate them into the team's game plan.

Unfortunately, a shortened season isn't likely to happen anytime soon because having fewer games would take money out of the owners' pockets. The players would need to concede a lot more than they did in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to get the owners to even consider the idea. So instead, the league is toying with the idea of shortening the time of games - not only to speed up the time it takes to finish a game, but also to limit the wear and tear on the players. Games that are four minutes shorter will cut 328 minutes for each team over the course of the season, which translates to approximately 7 fewer games. It's an interesting concept, but not without it's flaws.

During this experimental trial between the Celtics and Nets this weekend, the league will be watching closely to analyze how shorter quarters affects the flow of the game. While it may take some time for teams to settle into that format, cutting a minute off of each quarter isn't likely to drastically alter how they play. Coaches will adjust to the new format and alter their rotations accordingly.

"I'm looking forward to gauging its impact on the flow of the game," expressed new Nets coach Lionel Hollins. "Since there is a shorter clock, it affects playing time, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays into substitution patterns."

Here's the problem. The idea of shortening games is to limit the heavy minutes that many starters endure, but what if coaches don't adjust their usage of star players? If they know a particular player is capable of handling 35+ minutes per game on a regular basis, what's to stop them from continuing to run them out there at that same rate? Shortening games could have a greater impact on the bench players by reducing their court time instead.

Switching to a 44-minute game could split the league into different philosophies on how to handle the change. Some teams, like the Spurs, already limit their starters to around 30 minutes per game, but they have the depth to afford to use their bench more without suffering a dramatic drop off in production. Top-heavy super teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers would be tempted to play their star players more to gain an advantage by limiting the amount of time their inferior bench is on the floor.

The top 20 players in Estimated Wins Added last season combined to average 35.6 minutes per game last season. That means they rested for approximately 12 minutes per game, which would be one quarter, or 25% of the game. If the league's best players were to average around the same amount of minutes in a 44-minute game, that means they would only be resting for only about 19 percent of each game.

While this might be good news for fans, who will get to see their favorite players dominate a larger portion of games, it does nothing to fix the issue of these players being overworked without enough rest. It also creates an issue for players at the back of the rotation who could see their minutes reduced -- or cut completely. Less minutes for those players means less opportunity to earn their next contract, which isn't likely to go over well with the Players Association. This would also essentially punish teams that have carefully crafted deep rosters by negating some of the impact of their bench.

The NBA is already a league in which one superstar player can impact the game more so than a single player in any of the other major team sports. Reducing the length of games would emphasize their impact on the game without adding much benefit to the players. Perhaps minutes caps could be put on players to ensure they are receiving the intended benefit of shortening games, but that may be too extreme at this point and would be difficult for coaches and officials to enforce.

The concept of shortening games has potential in theory, but it comes with easily exploited loopholes that the league will need to keep an eye on. That begins this Sunday when the Celtics travel to Brooklyn to be the league's first guinea pigs in this experiment. Time will tell if it actually works, but at least they are trying. Taking innovative steps to try to improve the game is a positive sign - which we are sure to see more of during the reign of commissioner Adam Silver.

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