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Elam Ending goes Prime Time

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The future of hoops may be upon us

So without compunction, I’ll steal a great line and paraphrase Jon Landau who, when he was still just a music critic, presciently wrote, “I’ve seen the future of rock & roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

I’ve seen the future of basketball, and its name is the Elam Ending.

(Landau, as you might know, became Springsteen’s manager. Maybe I’ll be named Grande Poobah of Hoops. Czar Seedy I.)

If you have even a passing obsession with the game we love, you’ve heard of it, right? A new and completely different and scintillating way to end games, developed after years of thought and research by a guy named Nick Elam. Duh!

At the first dead ball after there are less than four minutes to play, the game clock gets turned off. Seven points are added to the total of the winning team, or the score if tied. First team to reach the target wins.

I finally saw it in action this confused but mostly drippy Sunday afternoon, when every time I figured I’d go outside and play, it started to rain again.

The Elam Ending is being used in the $2 million Winner Take All playdown called The Basketball Tournament. The Round of 32 game was on the Deuce. One team was 4 seed Big X, a put together squad of ex-Big Ten players featuring nobody you’ve ever heard of except maybe Dan Dakich’s son. The other was Prime Time Players, a squad consisting of players from along the eastern seaboard that nobody’s ever heard of except their mothers and ex-wives.

As the well coiffed young announcer whose name I’ve forgotten mentioned time and again, “Prime Time Players has played 700 games together.” It was Big X’s second tilt.

All of which was on display early on as PTP pulled ahead in the third nine minute quarter by double digits. But Big X came back. And at that first stoppage after the 4:00 to go mark, the battle was knotted at 62.

Game on. First to 69 wins.

The main thing that happened next was the aversion to intentional fouling. In fact, each team went out of its way to avoid sending the other to the line.

The game got a bit harum scarum, and Big X grabbed a 67-66 lead. At which juncture, Prime Time, understanding the permutations, was loathe to take a deuce. Because if they made it, they’d be up 68-67, but could lose on the ensuing possession if Big X tallied a 2.

Eventually Big X committed an inadvertent foul. And PTP made one of two FTs to tie it up again at 67. After a timeout during which it was obvious that this was team that had rarely played together, Big X didn’t tally. PTP called timeout, and with “700 games of experience,” the #12 seed moved on, when the ball was worked to a wide open Terrell Smith who hit his 8th trey in 14 attempts to advance to the Round of 16.

I’m not sure exactly why -- my evidence is anecdotal in the extreme, one game only -- but I really like this tweak to James Naismith’s invention.

The Basketball Tournament’s Round of 16 will be shown at various channels of the World Wide Leader next weekend. All games feature the Elam Ending. Try to catch some of it. Unless of course you feel compelled to head outdoors in the summertime and actually recreate yourself.

-- Seedy K