December 31, 2018

Sorry, no shot clock please

Jim Mattson, sports director at WEEK-TV 25, started an interesting discussion on Twitter on Friday where he posted, seemingly in frustration, that the IHSA and member schools need to adopt a shot clock for basketball games like the collegiate and professional use.

The tweet came after he witness Metamora settle into a zone defense against North Lawndale at the State Farm Classic. Rather than attack, the Phoenix held the ball and waited for the Redbirds to come out and challenge them for possession.

That wait, starting at the beginning of the second quarter, lasted for 6 minutes, 45 seconds, according to a post on Metamora’s Twitter feed. Only 4 points were scored in the quarter.

Mattson's tweet received over 900 likes and over 100 replies both supporting and in opposition to his call for timing offensive possessions.

The IHSA anticipates the shot clock will make it way into Illinois gyms in the near future. In April of 2018, Kurt Gibson, Associate Executive Director for basketball, told the Quincy Herald Whig: ".... There was a time I thought it would not happen," he said. "Now, I believe it's a matter of when, not if."

For those rallying behind the idea, they will have to wait. If the shot clock is coming to high school basketball in Illinois, it likely won't happen until the 2020-21 season. And it won't happen unless the National Federation of High School Associations approve the use as an organization. The IHSA could plow ahead and adopt a shot clock, but the IHSA would then be prohibited from voting on rules committees for the sport.

Currently, only eight states -- California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington -- use a shot clock set for 30 or 35 seconds. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association approved a 35-second shot clock for boys and girls basketball but later reversed the decision to make the switch.

When the game was conceived and the way it played today, defense is an integral part of game strategy.

Without the ability to play defense why bother playing against another team? You might as well set the clock for 8 minutes, put one team on the floor and have them shoot while the opposing team watches from the bench. Each team gets to shoot for four quarters. The team that scores the most baskets wins. After all, that's what shot-clockers want. They want to watch their team make baskets.

From my point of view, a shot clock essentially penalizes the superior team. It is a participation trophy of sorts for the team that can't play defense individually.

It is siege warfare. The zone is like a high wall, well-fortified castle around the rim. Unless you have superior technology available to attack with minimal losses, the easiest, tried and true counter strategy to a siege is waiting. You wait until your opponent leaves the comfort of his moat and creates an opening to attack.

I covered a game at The Leader Classic years ago where two teams engaged in the zone/stall strategy for almost seven minutes in the second quarter and the first few minutes into the third.

I was at first tickled at silliness as players from both team just stood with their hands down at their side, nobody threatening defensively and nobody moving to get open on offense.

Then I started panic a bit. I had no actual action photos to deliver to our client paper because, well, there was no action. Finally, I eagerly watch with fascination wondering which team would 'blink' first.

Fans were booing, very vocal and disapproving of the two coaches game of chicken. There was more action in the bleachers, spectators and parents on the edge of revolt throwing their hands up in frustration having nothing to cheer for by either team.

Still, it was kind of fun. Like gunfight in the wild west, I wanted to see who would draw first.

Probably, the only positive take away is zone/stall games are over in almost no time. There were no fouls, substitutions and timeouts to stop the game clock for more than 11 minutes of game time.

Yes, limiting possession time of the ball by a team can make the game more exciting, for fans. However, it doesn't make the players -- or the game for that matter -- any better if teams are not playing defense.

The simplest solution, and most economical, is to change the rules to motivate coaches to play man-up, match-up and press. Eliminate the zone defense.

Outlawing the zone defense would be much more fan-friendly, much more exciting with fluid match-ups on every possession. With starters running the floor more, bench players would see more playing time to keep the freshest legs attacking and defending on every play.

Forget the shot clock. Stop stalling by just saying "No" to technology and the same to the Zone defense. Basketball will be much more exciting without both.