The NBA and Instant Replay
Many a time I have been watching a basketball game and seen a call that gets completely blown. Whether it is an obvious violation of the rules that goes uncalled or a call is made that should not have been, I believe that there needs to be more effort made to ensure that the correct calls are made as much as possible. I'm sitting here watching some coverage of the World Cup game, and throughout the entire competition I have been appalled at the officiating that goes on in these games. So this is what started to make me think about how much better the NBA officiating could be.
To my knowledge, here are the instances that are deemed to be reviewable by the officials. First, there must be a discrepancy among officials, and they can not come to an agreement on the call. One of the most commonly seen play reviews is to determine if a field goal was a two or a three point attempt. This goes for made baskets and if a foul was committed to see how many free-throws the shooter receives. Out of bounds plays are also reviewable. This goes for people stepping on the line as well as seeing who last touched the ball prior to it going out of bounds. Another scenario that I have often seen reviewed is in addressing the shot clock or game clock. Nobody is perfect and often times there are some problems between the scores table and managing the clock.
Another reviewable play comes up at the end of quarters in determining if a buzzer beater shot should or should not count. The buzzer beater replay was the first instant replay review to be introduced after a game 4 winning shot in the 2002 Western conference finals cost the Kings the game. The shot was later looked at and determined to be shot after time had expired. Unfortunately, the game had already been lost. The final instance that I can think of for reviewing plays is when the league looks at the actions of a player during a foul situation. This can be done to either increase the penalty for a player or decrease the penalty for a player. Also, technical and flagrant fouls can either be upgraded, downgraded, or taken away completely, as was the case with Kendrick Perkins in this years finals.
So there are the rules. The only thing left to think about is whether or not these are sufficient to ensure a fair game day in and day out. I'm going to come right out and say that there needs to be some work done on these rules. I see a problem when most of the reviews come in the last few minutes of a game. I'm a firm believer that instant replay should be utilized for discrepancies in calls no matter how much time remains on the clock. With the amount of close games that are decided by one or two points that occur every night during the season, one possession can be the determining factor in a win or a loss. Plus, if you think about the affect that one game can have on a team's season the impact of one bad call begins to grow. The west is currently stacked with many good teams and the cut off for making it into the playoffs is very tight. The margin for losses is dwindled down to literally one or two games. So if one bad call in the first or second quarter can affect whether or not a team wins or loses a game, then one bad call in the first or second quarter can determine whether or not a teams makes it into the post-season. That, to me, is a huge impact.
When you think about the actions that need to be taken, however, there are some very different point of views, and I understand the reasoning behind them. The differences in opinion can be about as drastic as the political views of Cheney and Pelosi. Some would like the officiating to be under complete scrutiny with every questionable call being addressed at the scores table on an instant replay T.V. I don't think that is the answer. We don't want to turn NBA games into 4 hour marathons like some baseball games. Plus basketball is a sport of momentum and flow. Doing this would do terrible things to the rhythm of a game. Then you have the purists who want instant replay to be used very sparingly if not at all. This is not the way to go either. If the officials have the technology to ensure a fair game is played then they should use it. My solution to the problem would be to do a couple things. One keep all of the reviewable scenarios the same, but add one. I would like to see more attention paid to the bang-bang call that is often gotten wrong when deciding whether to call a block or a charge. I can't count how many times I have yelled at a ref on my screen for blowing one of these calls. As we discussed above one possession can have a drastic affect on a team's entire season. The other thing I would like to see is instant review being done more outside the last few minutes of a game. There is no way that only those last instances are the only ones that are disagreeable. If you're going to review calls and non-calls at the end of a game, why not do so at the beginning of a game also.
Obviously there is a lot of scrutiny as to whether or not instant replay is something that should be used or not in officiating. If it is used then the question arises of how much is too much. Personally, I am a firm believer that the games in the NBA should be called as close to the guidelines as possible. This can be done so in a better manner by utilizing instant replay. There is, after all, a lot riding on almost every single game that is played, especially when in contention for a post-season appearance. The line may be a thin one, but it is one that the NBA officiating board are going to have to walk.