NBA should have fixed flawed replay system years ago
The red flag of NBA video review has been waving for several years.
Near the end of the 2009-10 season, while the Bulls battled for the No. 8 playoff seed, they played a game in New Jersey. Clinging to a 2-point lead in overtime, Derrick Rose drove into the lane, lost the ball out of bounds and the officials initially ruled Bulls ball.
But first they checked the replay.
The video showed a Nets guard – Devin Harris, if my memory is correct – reaching in from behind, grabbing Rose’s arm and causing him to lose the ball out of bounds. It was as obvious a foul as you’ll ever see and the referees missed it.
But replay doesn’t apply to missed fouls. And since Harris got all arm and no ball, Rose was the last player to touch it before it went out of bounds. The Nets got possession, tied the game and eventually won in double overtime.
The point of any sport using video review should be to get the call right. I think everyone can agree on that. But the NBA somehow developed a system that not only forces referees to make the wrong call, it highlights the fact that they got the call incorrect, because everyone can see it on replay. This idiotic system has somehow remained in place for five years.
It’s a hot topic again, thanks to Tuesday’s L.A. Clippers-Oklahoma City game. If you didn’t see it, the Thunder made a furious late-game rally after trailing by 13 points with 4:13 left and by 7 with 49 seconds remaining.
After a Kevin Durant layup cut the Clippers’ lead to 104-102 with 17 seconds left, Thunder guard Reggie Jackson came up with a loose ball, drove to the basket and lost the ball out of bounds as he was shooting. Referees called OKC possession.
But first, they went to replay. It looked like Jackson was fouled by Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Some might use the “hand is part of the ball” argument, but Barnes got plenty of wrist as he slapped the ball out of Jackson’s control. Then it looked like the ball touched Jackson’s hand again before going out of bounds.
After looking at the replay, the officials gave the ball to Oklahoma City. Clippers coach Doc Rivers howled about the decision during and after the game, but the correct ruling would have been to give Jackson 2 free throws.
So the Clippers got a break in one sense, since the refs missed the foul, but messed up when Chris Paul fouled Russell Westbrook during an ill-advised 3-point attempt a few seconds later. Westbrook made all 3 free throws with 6.4 seconds on the clock and the Thunder won 105-104, taking a 3-2 lead in the series.
There was an even more egregious example of “replay shows a missed foul” during Game 1 of the Clippers-Golden State series in the first round. Late in a close game, Paul was clearly fouled by Warriors forward Draymond Green near the sideline and lost the ball out of bounds. Officials originally gave the ball to the Clips, but reversed the ruling after looking at the replay.
One of the golden rules of basketball is don’t let a game hinge on one call. The Clippers have plenty of reasons to blame themselves for blowing the late lead on Tuesday.
NBA referees generally do an excellent job. Just watch a few college games and you’ll quickly learn to appreciate NBA refs. But this video system ends up making them look incompetent.
At the start of every season, the league has a media availability session with referees, to help explain rules and points of emphasis.
In 2010, I went to one of those and brought up the Rose replay issue against New Jersey. Joey Crawford happened to be on hand that night and we had an interesting back-and-forth that went nowhere. One of his responses was, “Not everyone would say there was a foul.” Well, yes they would, but we didn’t have a replay handy to review.
Video replay on out of bounds calls began with the 2009-10 season. Here’s a quote from former NBA vice president Stu Jackson on the topic of calling fouls based on replay reviews:
“If we begin to get into an area where we start to review foul calls, you get into a situation where, which calls do you review?” Jackson told The Associated Press in 2010. “How many of them do you review? Do you review at certain parts of the game, the entire game? Now you start to effectively infringe upon the look of the game and the timing of the game, and we want to avoid that as much as possible.”
Jackson doesn’t have that job anymore, but it’s really not that hard. Review the same plays the league is now, and if they see a foul on replay, call the foul. Get it right and everyone will be happy.
If the league wants to speed up the game, get rid of the ridiculous clear-path foul and the needless replay reviews that rule creates.