If a road team is to win in this NBL grand final series it appears Sunday’s Game 4 is the chance for the Perth Wildcats, but Melbourne United is confident of bouncing back without some of the obstacles they feel come in Perth.
My greatest sporting memory as a child was attending Melbourne Tigers games with my Dad.
Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland were nailing those alley-oops, there was a fierce rivalry with the SE Melbourne Magic and big crowds attended Rod Laver Arena on a regular basis.
Fast forward to 2014 and I felt betrayed by the decision to change the name to Melbourne United.
The Melbourne Tigers NBL brand – a name that was synonymous with Australian professional basketball for over 30 years was wiped away in an instant – all for the sake of marketing.
Disillusioned and disgruntled, I swore I would no longer follow the NBL and focused my attention on the NBA.
It was only this season, buoyed by the chance to watch games again with my father that I decided to put old differences aside and support Melbourne United and the NBL. It is a decision I have not regretted.
Attending a recent United game, I was amazed by the match day experience and how much it has changed from watching the Tigers many years ago. The club has done well to acknowledge the past with the retired jerseys of old Tiger greats and championship flags all hanging in the corner.
The NBL and the clubs must be congratulated for their efforts in rebranding the league.
Despite keeping the same franchises they have managed to re-energise the clubs, assisted in creating a more financially stable model and helped reconnect passionate fans across the country.
The NBL.tv app is brilliant and it’s free live and delayed access to your teams games is a first in the Australian sporting market.
But what can the NBL do to create an even better product?
The NBL has adopted FIBA rules rather than NBA rules. My firm belief is we should adopt more NBA rules.
Of these, the two most important are the three-second defensive rule in the key and extending the three-point line. The first of these prevents the any defensive player from staying in the key when not actively defending an opponent.
This stops the centre sitting in the middle of the key protecting the rim. Having to step out opens up one side of the court.
This creates more lanes for players to drive, results in more slam dunks and alley-oops with the weak side opened up.
It also limits the effectiveness and ease of playing zone defence which can reduce the reliance on outside shooting. You almost only see man to man defence in the NBA and I think this makes for a better spectacle.
The three-point line distance was extended by FIBA to 6.7m in 2010 but is still short of the 7.24m used in the NBA. Extending the three point line allows for better player spacing and such a change can only improve the shooting prowess and skill of players at all levels.
But can the NBL pick and choose which rules it takes on from the NBA or does it need to adopt all of them?
I assume it would be the latter which would mean going back to 12-minute quarters, having extra-timeouts available, fouling out after six fouls (rather than the current five) and a change to jump ball regulations.
There would also be a change to the travel interpretation allowing players to take two steps after catching the ball rather than one allowed by FIBA. The other consideration is the flow on effect down to junior basketball.
Even if it is an all or nothing, the NBA rules are still preferable to the FIBA rules. I have no issue with an extra eight minutes of high quality basketball.
Extra timeouts (including 20 second timeouts) can be a hindrance in slowing down the flow of play but are useful in tight finishes where it allows a team making a comeback to stop the clock and advance the ball to half court.
The extra foul is needed given the length of quarters is slightly longer. Relaxation of the travel rules would allow for more athletic finishing at the rim when catching the ball off a cut – this would certainly be a positive.
These rule changes would further enhance the NBL on-court product – changes that hopefully lead to bigger crowds and an even better TV product.