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How the NBA Implementing a 44-Minute Game Could Ultimately Stunt D-League Growth

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The NBA is trying to shorten the length of games to around two hours. Last season, an NBA game averaged about two hours and 15 minutes. Shortening the game from 48 minutes down to 44 is just the first of what is expected to be many "tests" to reach the two hour mark.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday morning, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today announced that the NBA will have the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics play a 44-minute preseason game on Sunday. There will be four 11-minute quarters and the competition committee made it clear that this is a one-time event -- for the time being.

The NBA's president of basketball operations, Rod Thorn, gave the fans some insight as to why this move was made.

"We have looked at everything we do and are taking a fresh look at all the different things we need to do. One of the things that keeps coming up is our schedule and the length of our games. Our coaches talked about it, and a lot of them seem to be in favor of at least taking a look at it. We talked with our competition committee, and they were in favor of taking a look at it."

One NBA coach didn't mince words when asked about the exploratory 44-minute game. Erik Gundersen, of The Columbian, asked the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers what he thought Tuesday after practice.

"I like the fact that the NBA is always looking to improve the game. I'm not necessarily sold on a 44-minute game. Historically, it's always been a 48-minute game. You've got a large roster."

That last line is the one that should have caught your attention. Currently each NBA team has a 15-man roster throughout the season. As it stands, there are approximately four to as many as seven guys who won't play a single minute on any given night in the NBA, and if this were to come to fruition as the master plan, those guys would have even less opportunity to get in the game.

By cutting just four minutes off each game, over the span of an 82-game season, that removes approximately seven games worth of minutes. Take into consideration that the Trail Blazers had three players who played less than seven games worth of minutes throughout the entire season (Earl Watson, Allen Crabbe and Victor Claver), and that's where the concern lies for the players. Gunderson also talked to C.J. McCollum at Portland's facilities Tuesday and he certainly isn't keen on the idea.

"As of right now I hate it as a guy that comes off the bench. That just diminishes my role even more. Obviously teams look to play their starters as much as possible and if you shorten the time, which means the less minutes reserves play, which means they are less valuable, which means we will get paid less, and pretty soon we'll be out of the league."

In their haste to get games into a two-hour window the NBA is clearly missing the importance of the NBA's young talent, middle class and veteran leadership that will most certainly bear the brunt of this move were it to be implemented.

So, how does all of this affect the NBA's Developmental League?

Well, the NBADL has been the guinea pig for NBA rule changes over the past couple of seasons (FIBA-style offensive goaltending, techincals for flopping, etc.) and we can assume this will rear it's face in the D-League sometime this season if NBA deems it necessary. One game is not enough of a sample size to determine if a change like this would be beneficial or not so it appears logical that once again the D-League will serve purpose as the breeding ground for potential rule changes for The Association.

While players and coaches of the D-League might not like having to switch to a 44-minute game either, the real consequences could be much more wide ranging. If lottery picks like C.J. McCollum are worried about their diminished value in a 44-minute game, how do you think fringe NBA players and end of the bench guys will feel when asked about it? One can assume that the opportunities that the D-League are in existence for would shrink with a move like this because ultimately less players would be needed in the NBA. Instead of D-League guys looking for a home in the NBA, the veterans and young players who didn't develop fast enough will be searching for employment overseas or possibly in the D-League as a last resort.

The D-League is a growing entity and the NBA can ill-afford to hinder that growth as the league moves closer and closer to a single D-League affiliate for each NBA franchise. As it stands for the 2014-15 season there are 18 teams in the league (more than ever before) and 17 of those have single affiliates, with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants being the exception. Many have estimated that in five to seven years each team will have that one-to-one affiliation that a true "minor league" system should have. However, a move like this to shorten games and ultimately lower the amount of bodies needed on NBA rosters, will only work against a goal that has been set in motion for some time.

What's the answer to the NBA's undying need to get games into a two-hour window? It could be less timeouts, less free throws (one for any shooting foul - two or three points depending on the shot), a college-like one-and-one system for free throws, and many other examples that have been tossed around. But any option that diminishes the opportunities that the NBA and D-League have set in place for their respective players should be immediately tabled as it would do more harm than good.

Will this be yet another wide-eyed experiment that doesn't stick, or is it here to stay? The former is clearly the more popular choice amongst the Trail Blazers' players and coaches, but time will tell what ultimately comes to pass.