HANG TIME, Texas — Go ahead, take another look at that Miami logo.
Maybe the Mayans weren’t predicting the end of the world for Dec. 21, 2012, but the beginning of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh raining down on the planet in the fiery start to the Heat dynasty. Just missed it by six months.
Of course, if the Mayans were so good at predicting the future, there might still be Mayans.
Or as the famous Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz once reassured: “Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”
That said, there are a few things we wouldn’t mind seeing wiped off Planet NBA permanently:
P.A. screamers — We don’t need a courtside announcer to bellow that there are “Dos Minutos!” left in the game or to screech that it’s proper fan etiquette for the home crowd to make sure the visiting player is shooting “Two nooissssy free throws!” Doing the basics of the job would suffice, such as pronouncing names correctly. Though it’s too late for the former 7-foot-6 All-Star center of the Rockets, we would like you to become just the slightest bit worldly and understand that last basket was scored by Yao, not Ming. And we can only hope that more than a few of you to learn that it’s not RAY-jon Rondo.
Back-to-backs — In the days of private charter jet travel, computer programs and individual game tickets that cost in the hundreds — and even thousands — of dollars, there is no reason to keep selling an inferior product. When one team is rested and the other is flying in from having played the night before, it is the fan who is negatively affected most. Yes, some teams are different than others, but there is no reason that gap should be widened or closed by an uneven playing field. Since neither players or owners will accept the financial cutbacks necessary to play a 66-game schedule, there is another way. Eliminate virtually all of the preseason, start the regular season two weeks earlier, run the schedule two weeks longer and eliminate the exclusivity window that restricts the number of teams that can play on Thursdays. In addition to competitive balance, it’s time the paying customer doesn’t sit through a night where one team looks like the zombies from “The Walking Dead.”
Whining about Hack-a-Shaq – There are few things more deplorable than watching a supposed All-Star center stand at the foul line and struggle to make 50 percent of his free throws. The one thing that is worse is listening to the apologists who want to outlaw the intentional foul. If a batter in baseball can’t hit the curve, should he be allowed to request only fastballs? Try hypnosis, green tea, reciting poetry and going to your happy place while standing at the stripe. Or just shut up and stay in the gym until you learn to perform a fundamental part of the game.
Mascot skits — We understand that it’s not just a game anymore, but a full “entertainment experience.” Yet there are too many of the furry/silly mascots who don’t grasp the fact that their primary job is supposed to be generating enthusiasm for the team. When the home team is on a 10-0 tear, the visitors are disorganized and forced to call timeout, that is the occasion to keep the crowd cheering and whipped into a frenzy, not trot out a corny routine that you hope will one day get you an invite to “Inside the Actors Studio.”
Pointless fastbreaks — How many times will we be forced to watch a team come down the floor with a 2-on-1 or even 3-on-1 advantage and see a pass back outside for a 3-pointer rather than taking the ball all the way to the hoop? The analytics crowd can have their effective field goal percentage. A lot of folks would prefer to see a guard handle the ball in the middle of the floor and dish to a wingman for a simple layup or dunk. Wasn’t it good enough for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird?
Offensive basket interference — In effort to have the game played by the same rules all around the world, it’s time the NBA went with the international community and made any ball live and in play once it hits the rim. It means the ball could be swatted off the rim by a defender or tapped or pushed down into the basket by an offensive player. The play requires not just leaping ability, but timing and skill and does not happen as often as you might think in international play or in the NBA D-League, which is experimenting with the rule. For the anti-Hack-a-Shaq crowd, it could even help Dwight Howard with his free throws if a teammate was there to clean up his misses.
All-Star voting outrage — It’s time that the purists stopped the annual carping that accompanies the release of each round of vote totals. We know that Anderson Varejao, Greg Monroe, O.J. Mayo and Stephen Curry are having the kind of starts to this season that merit attention and admiration. But the All-Star Game is purely a popularity contest and, let’s face, it, everybody wants to watch LeBron, Carmelo, Kobe and CP3.