NBA Considers Free Throw Tweaks For Next Elam Ending

by February 20, 2020
Anthony Davis in the All-Star Game

The Elam Ending, which restored a sense of competitiveness to this month’s NBA All-Star Game, is likely to return for next year’s All-Star Game as well, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reports.

Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, told Lowe that nothing was official for next season’s All-Star Break but that it could reasonably be assumed that the successful format would return.

The format may see minor tweaks, however, and Spruell mentioned several potential ideas that could modify the experience further. Among them, a prohibition of free throws when the game is on the line.

Whereas this year’s game ended when Kyle Lowry put Anthony Davis on the free-throw line in the fourth, one hypothetical alternate that the league has discussed is a change that penalizes the fouling team, instead of rewarding the player that was fouled.

That could come in the form of a deducted point for the team that committed the foul and potentially even the forced removal of the offending party. Sorry, Kyle.

The original creator of the revised format, Nick Elam, isn’t as concerned about the game ending on free throws and fears that over-regulation to avoid such a scenario could cause more trouble than it’s worth.

This is something I’ve tried to scratch out on paper and tinker with over the years, and it just seems like any sort of explicit regulation on preventing games from ending on free throws is going to have unintended consequences,” Elam told Nick Greene of Slate. “I think you just have to leave that possibility in the game“.

Elam speculates that 15-to-20% games end this way in The Basketball Tournament, the first major hoops platform to adopt the finish, and that he considers it to be a palatable amount.

The final possession in Sunday’s All-Star tilt unfolded after a wild stretch run and the actual foul came as a result of Lowry draping himself over Davis to compensate for a significant mismatch, eventually tugging his arm and bringing them both to the floor.

For those keeping score at home, the reason Lowry was checking Davis at all is because of a miscommunication at the top of the possession when James Harden, tailed by Lowry, set a screen for Davis.

Davis’ defender, Joel Embiid, stayed with Davis but Lowry switched on the screen, leaving Harden open. In the panic, Embiid bailed to check Harden. The initial play then reset and Davis took advantage of the smaller defender.