Is the NBA Video Replay System Used Correctly?



With less than 20 seconds remaining in the third overtime of a now famous four-overtime thriller between the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers, an interesting storyline has unfolded. The Nuggets were in possession, up two points, with a three-second difference between the shot clock and the game clock.

Denver’s Jamal Murray brought the ball to the ground, then stopped just past halfway to slow the clock down. CJ McCollum of Portland was clearly instructed not to foul Murray, but to aggressively pile him up in an attempt to force a turnover. With all of the building’s fans on their feet, the initial broadcast camera angle barely caught what initially appeared to be McCollum kicking the ball away from Murray and out of bounds:

Like virtually every other similar bang-bang call in an NBA game, the nearby official returned the ball to Denver. If you watch the end of the clip above carefully, you can even see that the game went on almost nonstop until McCollum and a few other Portland players requested a video review, which the refs ultimately granted. .

Most know what happened next: Based on a lengthy examination which showed the ball barely brushed against Murray’s fingertips on the out-of-bounds, the call was reversed and the ball was knocked out. went to the Blazers – who then tied the game and ultimately won in fourth overtime.

It wasn’t the only such glamorous call we’ve seen in the playoffs, either. In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks, the Bucks lost a chance to cut a late-game three-point deficit when a similar out-of-bounds call was ultimately against. Malcolm Brogdon near the sidelines. Watch the game – during one of the other 46 minutes of a normal NBA game, which team would almost certainly receive possession here?

The problem isn’t even limited to the NBA itself. Hell, the NCAA title game between Texas Tech and Virginia included a remarkably lengthy video review that many believe tipped the game in favor of the Cavaliers.

In an interview posted tuesday, Steve Javie, former veteran NBA official and current ESPN / ABC rules analyst, commented on these unique circumstances now facing league officials (the comments were removed from Tuesday’s post for use here) .

“I’ll be speaking with former referees like Joey Crawford or Mark Wunderlich, guys who run the group of officials in the NBA,” Javie said. “And we’ll say guys, can you imagine how many out of bounds games we probably missed?” Because we would think of it as “causing the ball to go out of bounds” instead of “who is the last to touch it?” “”

This problem, and a few other minor ones like it, are the last vestiges of the old world of NBA refereeing. This world was rife with subjectivity – with arbitrators “using their judgment” for areas like these and many others rather than relying on a single standardized set of yes or no calls.

In recent years, this type of subjectivity has been virtually eliminated. The NBA doesn’t want its officials to ‘control the games’, issue ‘star calls’ or do anything else that introduces potential personal bias into what should be a black or white issue: NBA rules, or not?

And while the league has been largely successful in this effort, there are still a few eye-catchers – and the storyline above is one of them. In many cases, out-of-bounds calls are always made, as Javie alluded to, in reference to who “caused” the ball to come out, not necessarily who touched the ball last.

But with Instant Replay also now a tool available, the NBA is stuck between something of a rock and a hard place. During the last two minutes of play or extra time, the detailed letter of the law must be observed even if there is a real chance that it will be do not really observed for the other 46 minutes. And with these high-profile examples sticking on the minds of some NBA decision-makers, it has become a bit of a problem in some league circles.

For some, especially the grassroots traditionalists in the league, there has been some real debate about whether the “spirit” of this particular rule is in the right place. In every pickup room in the world, these people would say, these calls are made based on who is actually responsible for releasing the ball. Why not introduce the same theme in the NBA?

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Again, the league’s goal is less subjectivity and more objectivity; it’s the only fair and reasonable way to expect a group of 65 to play one of the fastest and most complex team sports in the world.

What would the move to a more cause-based rule at the league level do? That’s right, introduce more subjectivity.

Suddenly, officials are asked dozens of times per game to apply their own criteria to who “released” the ball. Sure, they would probably agree most of the time – but what about when they didn’t? These would quickly become the hottest appeals, and we would have a Wild West of officiating where the level of an official was not quite the same.

If anything, the changes here have to come from the other side of the equation: focusing on how to improve the other 46 minutes for calls like these.

And it turns out that the league is already working in this direction. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently reported, the league’s general managers are seriously considering introducing a fourth “replay” official who would sit at the scoring table during all games and help speed up several types of replay calls. Theoretically, these types of calls could be included.

Exactly how this happens is still pending, with a number of details to be worked out. What would trigger this kind of notice? Are they done automatically for each out-of-range call? What about fouls – can officials go back and follow them in this scenario as well, removing that annoying situation where an exam shows a clear foul that cannot be changed? This will all be taken into account, along with how these areas impact other common types of calls.

Either way, these playoffs offered some interesting examples of the challenges the NBA has faced while trying to introduce more fairness and transparency into its games. Creating objective scenarios for their officials is the name of the game, but doing it without straying too far from the roots of the sport – and without lengthening matches to an insane degree – is the real balance they had to strike.

We’ll see if this is a good topic of discussion for this topic and several related areas.


About Clayton Arredondo

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