SAN ANTONIO – No game in The Finals has been decided or even tilted dramatically in the final seconds by the use of the NBA’s replay rule. But some day that will happen, at which point we know these things will happen:
- The officiating crew will huddle, then move as one to the sideline. The crew chief will don a headset to put him in communication with the broadcast truck outside the arena, and all three refs will watch and re-watch a series of slow- and regular-motion video clips, sometimes zoomed to the brink of graininess.
- Fans, players and coaches will simultaneously focus their gazes on the video screens in house.
- Players will gulp water, towel off and catch their breath while coaches pounce on the moment to call out a play, offer some advice and do otherwise timeout-ly things.
- If the replays support the home team’s side of the disputed play, home fans will amp up their noise in hopes of influencing the refs down below. If the video evidence looks to support the visitors, the joint gets quieter.
- ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy will sneer at the whole process, saying that the correct call was obvious from the start. He’ll do this whether he’s working the game for ABC/Disney or whether he’s on a weekend getaway in the Alps.
- Folks at home, remote in hand, feet raised, will glance at the time and realize how soon that morning alarm clock is going to go off. They too will get antsy.
- The people at NBA HQ in New York’s Olympic Tower will smile, satisfied that the game will be adjudicated correctly and that there will be less work waiting in the morning in terms of appeals, error reports and cranky feedback.
That last item, you should know, carries enough weight to trump everything else on that list when it comes to current and future usage of “instant relay review triggers,” as Rule No. 13 of the official NBA rulebook calls them.
Just the other day in Miami, as the 2013 Finals started, NBA commissioner David Stern reaffirmed his support of the rule and talked of broadening it. It’s one of the agenda items for the league’s competition committee when it meets this week in San Antonio.
“Everyone with a smart phone can see it, everyone at home can see it, and everyone who is sitting with the scoreboards that are going to be the new toy of our arenas that give a great view [can see it].” Stern said. “But the poor officials don’t really see it that way. It’s discordant to us. The idea is to have the game decided on its merits.”
Players, coaches, referees and NBA sages contacted for this story also landed overwhelmingly on the side of getting calls correct. Many suggested tweaks, but the bottom line for all was accuracy over elapsed time or any other objection.
“You’re stopping the flow of the game and you’re lengthening the game,” coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown said. “Pretty soon it’s going to be like baseball, where it never ends. But coaches and players do not want to have a game lost because somebody blew a call, either on an out-of-bounds play or a bad call.”
The last two minutes of games, in which plays such as Brown mentioned bring action to a halt, turn the spotlight on replay in a way that’s not always enjoyable. There is a delay. There is what sometimes appears to be indecision being played out in front of the world. But the alternative seems unthinkable to many. (more…)