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Three suggestions for the NLL

At some point after the National Lacrosse League season comes to an end, the Board of Governors will meet to discuss a variety of issues.

I have three suggestions - some more important than others, and one that will only take two seconds - after watching the current season:

* Let's start with the short one. Teams are given eight seconds to get the ball across the center line. If they miss that deadline, they lose possession. It was moved up from 10 seconds in order to speed up the game a little. I like 10 seconds better. It doesn't take much for a team to make a mistake in trying to leave its own end. Then there's a turnover, and the opposing team can often take advantage of the resulting odd-man situation that often develops because play resumes immediately. Ten seconds would be more fair.

* I've never liked the over-and-back rule. The way it works now, and forgive me for not quoting the rule, if the ball goes back across the center line from the offensive zone, the attacking team loses possession. However, the opposing team has the chance to pick up the ball and immediately start its offense - no matter where the ball is. That including 15 feet from the net. This leads to the occasional instant two-on-one break that just doesn't seem fair in a competitive sense. A long shot easily can bounce off the glass and roll to the other end to create a chance for the opposition. A stoppage of play and a change of possession at the center line always struck me as the way to go on this rule.

The current two rules lead to "cheap goals" once in a while, along the lines of "basket hanging" in basketball. And I hate cheap goals.

Take these two ideas with a grain of salt. It's not like I've ever played the game - just watched it closely for seven years.

* We've had two years of mini-games in the NLL Playoffs. I've attended one, and I'll speak without much prompting about the dramatics involved. Still, I've said it's not a particularly fair way to decide a playoff winner.

Under the current system, the second-place team hosts the third-place team in the first round, and then with a win is guaranteed at least one more playoff game in the second round. That's one more than the division winner is guaranteed in the current format. In other words, there could be a financial penalty in terms of hosting games for winning a division.

Besides, the season feels a little long right now. In a perfect world, I'd like to see it end closer to Memorial Day weekend.

Therefore, I'd change the first two rounds to best-of-one. Second-place team gets a home game, and the first-place team gets a home game. I'd be happy to leave the finals at best-of-three, so that both teams host at least one game and share in the excitement.

There are other issues, of course, but I'll leave them for the Governors to settle. For now.

--- Budd Bailey

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