NBA going with shorter games for Disney exhibition openers

TIM REYNOLDS

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — The first exhibition games of the NBA restart will go a little more quickly than usual.

The NBA is tweaking the rules for those initial matchups, going with 10-minute quarters instead of the usual 12 minutes. The change is for several reasons — among them, not wanting to overly tax players after they went more than four months without games, and because some teams do not have their full rosters at Walt Disney World yet because of coronavirus and other issues.

The change will apply only to the first exhibition for teams; their second and third exhibition games at Disney will use standard timing. All teams are slated to play three exhibitions.

“This is a different situation,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Saturday. “In all areas, really. ... I do think that there’s some latitude to do some different things.”

Exhibitions start with a four-game slate Wednesday and continue through July 28. Plans call for all 33 exhibitions to be televised by some combination of local TV, national TV, NBA TV or NBA League Pass.

“I believe that it's done just trying to get safety first for the players," Orlando coach Steve Clifford said of the shorter first exhibition. “I think most teams are like us, where everybody is just feeling their way and guys aren't in the type of condition they would normally be in in a training camp situation."

The league is still working on some of the specifics for the first games, even whether to give teams the option of wearing uniforms or practice gear. Most teams, as of Saturday, were still planning to wear their usual regular-season uniforms for all three of their exhibitions -- the new jerseys featuring social justice messaging will not debut until the seeding games that count begin July 30.

Other changes for the exhibition games may include using more than three referees in a rotating system, though that also remains under discussion.

Players apparently had not been told the first exhibitions will go faster.

“I don’t know about that yet,” said Oklahoma City guard Chris Paul, the president of the National Basketball Players Association. “So, I’ll find out.”

The exhibitions will be played like normal games — score and stats will be kept, and it will be a chance for the league’s stat crews that were hired to work for three months at Disney to work out any kinks in the system.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s taking a different view than he does for typical preseason matchups. For the first time, he’s talking with the coaches of the teams the Heat will face — Sacramento’s Luke Walton and Utah’s Quin Snyder — to see if there are any specific situations those clubs want to work on in those games.

Spoelstra simply bumped into Snyder in the lobby of a Disney hotel and from there, the idea of one team helping out another in the exhibitions was born. The Heat and Jazz will not play in a seeding game and couldn’t meet in a game that counts at Disney until the NBA Finals.

“You have to fast-track so much before you get to that eight-game regular season. ... We’ll approach it that way and play probably everybody available, but definitely work on some things and do a little bit of evaluating as well,” Spoelstra said.

The exhibitions will be helpful in breaking up the monotony of practice, Denver coach Michael Malone said, but he stressed that player health will come before anything else in those games.

“The No. 1 thing for me is can we get through these three scrimmages healthy and not getting guys put in a position where they’re overworked, playing too many minutes and getting hurt,” Malone said. “I think the vast majority of the 22 teams will approach it the same way.”

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