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NBA approves sweeping rules changes to timeouts, moves trade deadline effective immediately

Timeouts were taken to the workshop in a major way this summer.

Boston Celtics v Orlando Magic, Game 2 Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

The NBA’s Board of Governors met for its usual summer session and walked away with some major rules effective immediately in the league. The group’s overall focus was improving the flow of games, turning to drastic changes to how timeouts function to diminish downtime.

The maximum number of timeouts in a game has been reduced from 18 to 14 (7 per team), one of several changes targeted to limit breaks in play. Teams will also be limited to taking a maximum of two timeouts in the final two minutes of a game, down from three.

What were once “20-second” timeouts (60 seconds) and “full” timeouts (90 seconds) have been consolidated into one single “team timeout” that lasts 75 seconds.

“These changes will help us fulfill our goal of improving game flow and pace of play. Fewer stoppages and less time without action, especially at the end of a game, will further enhance the viewing experience for our fans.” Byron Spurell, NBA President, League Operations said in a press release announcing the broad changes.

Also getting a shakeup is the trade deadline, which typically occurred on the first Thursday after All-Star weekend. It will now come on the Thursday 10 days before the All-Star game, moving it up earlier in the month.

The decision was made in hopes of allowing teams to establish roster changes going into the All-Star break, as opposed to finalizing trades just as the regular season gets back underway.

The timeout changes are drastic, with implications regarding some loss of in-game rest time for players that are hard to project. Part of the fun of All-Star weekend was the flurry of trade rumors, which will now be concluded by the time the league kicks up its feet for a weekend.

Here’s the full list of all “game flow” and timeout changes the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approved Wednesday:

  • Each team will have seven timeouts per game, with no restrictions per half.
  • All team timeouts will be 75 seconds. In the previous format, “full” timeouts were 90 seconds and “20-second” timeouts were 60 seconds. Both “full” and “20-second” timeouts have been replaced by team timeouts.
  • All four periods will have two mandatory timeouts, which will take place after the first stoppage under the seven- and three-minute marks.
  • The under-nine-minute mandatory timeouts in the second and fourth periods will be eliminated.
  • Each team can enter the fourth period with up to four team timeouts.
  • Each team will be limited to two team timeouts after the later of (i) the three-minute mark of the fourth period or (ii) the resumption of play after the second mandatory timeout of the fourth period.
  • Each team will have two team timeouts per overtime period; previously teams had three.

The NBA also made the following changes regarding game flow:

  • Referees will assess a delay-of-game violation if a free throw shooter ventures beyond the three-point line between attempts.
  • Halftime will last 15 minutes for all games, beginning immediately upon expiration of the second period. A delay-of-game penalty will be issued if a team is not ready to start play at the expiration of the halftime clock.

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