An average NBA fan can go years, maybe even an entire hoops-viewing career, without witnessing an instance of one team playing with too many men on the court.
But that potential predicament got a lot of attention in the new instant-replay and rules modifications announced Thursday by the NBA. So woe to the team whose sixth man doesn’t wait for someone to sub out before subbing in.
Here is the rundown of changes and tweaks recommended by the NBA’s Competition Committee at its offseason meetings and approved by the Board of Governors. They’ll go into effect beginning with Friday’s preseason games:
Expansion of Instant Replay Rules
- Officials may utilize instant replay whenever they are not reasonably certain a team had an improper number of players on the court while the ball was in play.
Modification of Instant Replay Rules
- Instant replay triggers that are currently in effect only during the last two minutes of regulation and the entire overtime period(s) instead shall be in effect only during the last two minutes of regulation and the last two minutes of overtime period(s).
- Officials may now conduct an instant replay review whenever they are not reasonably certain as to which team should be awarded possession after a ball becomes out of bounds or whether an out of bounds in fact occurred during the last two minutes of regulation and the last two minutes of overtime period(s). Previously, officials could only use replay if they weren’t reasonably certain as to which of two players on opposing teams caused the ball to become out of bounds.
- Officials are now permitted to utilize instant replay whenever they are not reasonably certain whether a foul that was called meets the criteria of a flagrant foul. Previously, the foul had to be called a flagrant on the floor in order to utilize instant replay.
- Officials are now permitted to utilize instant replay whenever they are not reasonably certain whether a foul that was called meets the criteria of a clear-path-to-the-basket foul. Previously, the foul had to be called a clear-path foul on the floor in order to utilize instant replay.
- Officials may now utilize instant replay any time they are not certain when any player (offensive or defensive) without the ball was fouled relative to the timing of a successful shot. Prior to this change, officials could only review the timing when an offensive player without the ball was fouled.
- If a team has too many players on the court while the ball is in play, (i) the offending team would both be assessed a non-unsportsmanlike technical foul and lose possession if it had possession at the time the violation was discovered, and (ii) the non-offending team would continue to have the option of either accepting or nullifying the game action that occurred during the violation. Previously, if the offending team had possession, it would keep possession of the ball despite the violation.
- Teams may freely substitute players whenever any timeout is called. Prior to this change, there were limited circumstances in which a team couldn’t substitute for certain players at timeouts.
- The shot clock will no longer be reset to five seconds when a held ball is caused by the defense with fewer than five seconds remaining on the clock.
One notable change is that referees no longer will have to label a foul as a Flagrant 1 foul to trigger replay access, at which point they determine if the contact was a Flagrant 1, a Flagrant 2 or merely a common foul. The simple act of labeling the foul in advance, and then “reversing” that decision, often generated needless reactions from players, coaches and crowds.
It’s worth noting, too, that two other areas of potential replay use were not among the changes announced for the 2014-15 season. There still is no provision for a “challenge” system comparable to what the NFL and MLB have for coaches and managers. And out-of-bounds reviews still offer no remedy when an uncalled foul – contact that caused the ball to go out – is seen in the replay.