A Daily Babble Production
There seems to be a legitimate possibility of NBA games growing slightly longer this season. But it's for a good cause.
As ESPN's Marc Stein reported late last week, the league is considering two proposals to expand the use of instant replay in the coming season. The first would allow officials to use replay at any point during the game to determine whether a field goal was worth two or three points and whether a foul should result in two or three free throws. The second proposal would grant referees review power over end-of-quarter plays when the game clock malfunctions.
The only qualm here is that the second proposal might not go quite far enough.
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The long-held reasoning regarding replay here is that as long as it isn't used for subjective judgment calls, I've got no problem with it. Using replays to make subjective judgments - i.e. reviewing foul calls - is silly. The league has certain rules written vaguely that leave interpretation up to the referees, and there is no reason to delay games so that the refs can make a slightly more informed decision that still may lack certainty. The NFL set a great example with this when it didn't allow reviews of force-out plays (prior to the removal of the force-out rule this season). Having a referee spend time in the replay booth deciding what would have happened (i.e. whether a player would have landed in bounds had he not been impeded) doesn't guarantee enough accuracy to justify delaying the game or further removing the sport from the human element of officiating.
By the same token, allowing officials to use replay to make calls on issues that can be decided with certainty in nearly every instance makes a lot of sense. Checking to see whether a player did or didn't step on a line is something that can be done with relative ease and minimal time consumption with instant replay, and it can ensure the accuracy of the scoring of the game. A few extra minutes here or there seems a small price to pay for increasing the accuracy of these objective calls to as close to 100 percent as possible and for making sure players receive the right number of points for their baskets.
That said, I'm on board for the principles behind both proposals: Giving the officials the ability to review where a player was when he took a shot in order to get the points value or free throw quantity correct or to account for a clock malfunction is a good idea. The only complaint remains the part about only reviewing clock issues on plays that occur at the end of quarters.
Stein's report refers to the proposal as "consistent with the league's stated approach to employ instant replay to assist referees on the most important plays in a game." As we've discussed prior in this space, I have a problem with officiating basketball games with this "most important" idea in mind. There are 48 minutes in a regulation basketball game, and so far as the rules allow, each basket counts for the same number of points at one point during a game as it does at any other. Yes, the late-game situations are the ones spectators may remember and view as crunch time (at least in close games), but that doesn't decrease the importance of any of what goes on through the rest of the game. Clock malfunctions don't happen with all that much regularity to begin with, but when they do, it wouldn't hurt to have officials take the time to sort them out in order to guarantee that the game is timed correctly. That should stand no matter when problems come up during the course of a game.
Reviewing shooting plays that can be decided quickly and most often definitively via instant replay makes plenty of sense. Reviewing clock malfunctions makes plenty of sense. It's only limiting the latter to end-of-quarter situations that doesn't. But no matter how that portion of the program is revolved, the two replay proposals currently on the table no doubt represent two steps forward for the league and its officials.