Shane Battier and the buzzer-beater problem

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
5:24
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
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With just 1.3 seconds remaining in the first quarter of the Miami Heat's Wednesday night win over the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James caught a pass and turned up court. But instead of trying a 70-foot heave as time expired, James took a leisurely dribble, waited for the buzzer, then shot the ball. He had a chance, a slim one, to give his team points.

So why did he purposely wait until after the buzzer to shoot?

Shane Battier knows why. Players in James's situation want to take the shot, they just don't want to hurt their shooting stats. USA Today's Sam Amick recorded Battier's thoughts on the matter before last night's game:
"If you're a true shooter, those shots add up," [Battier] said, while making it clear that his view was also the opinion of most, if not all, NBA players. "It's not worth it (to shoot them). Even though statistically speaking, it's a positive – it's a plus-play (in terms of probabilities of success). If you shot every buzzer beater, you're going to make one out of - whatever the odds are.

"Even the heave is a plus-play. But unfortunately we're not judged on the plus-plays. We're judged on (shooting) percentages. I think they should take the heave out of the stat book. It's common sense."

And if they did change the rule book to reflect this stance?

"You'd have guys fighting to take that shot, because it's a hell of a fun shot," he said. "We shoot those shots every day in practice."
The last line is my favorite part of this. Of course players want to shoot that shot! But they don't because of money. When it's time for a new contract, players want to present the best version of themselves and that best version has a higher field goal percentage because he doesn't chuck up a 75-footer at the end of the period.


So how could the NBA change the rules to reverse the incentives?


Ethan Sherwood Strauss has been all over this topic for a year, and his idea is to count these fun, but unlikely shots as "fouled attempts." That way they could only impact a shooter's field goal percentage if they go in: "If it goes in, gravy. An elevated field goal percentage to the heaver. If it misses, the shot will be recorded but not incorporated in FG percent."


Others have long suggested simply not counting them as attempts at all, at least as regards field goal percentage.


Henry Abbott has a HoopIdea, saying that if money (that might be lost from a future contract) is the issue, well, use money to encourage players to shoot: "The NBA could get some league-wide sponsor, who can use the highlights of these exciting plays in commercials, to pay players a little something for every attempt at an end-of-quarter shot, and a big something if they make them. They aren't shooting them 'cause of money. Money ought to fix it."


How would you fix this problem? Give us your suggestions here:
Beckley Mason is an NBA contributor for ESPN.com.

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