Posts Tagged ‘Rod Thorn’

NBA’s new replay center a high-tech house of correctness


VIDEO: NBA houses new replay center to aid in correct calls

SECAUCUS, N.J. – In the not-so-distant future, a microchip sewn into the fabric of Kevin Durant III‘s uniform shirt (or perhaps embedded painlessly beneath his skin) will be able to sense physical contact from a defender. A signal transmitted instantly through the scoreboard simultaneously will stop the clock and trigger a whistle-like sound. And the NBA players on the court will dutifully line up for a couple free throws, no human referee necessary.

For now, though, the league’s state-of-the-art technology is housed on the first floor of a nondescript office building, in a corporate park on the west side of the Hudson River from Manhattan. Every instant of every NBA game to be played this season, this postseason and beyond will be processed through the new replay center located within, the game footage available to be searched and “scrubbed” (in the parlance of video editing) to get right as many replay situations as possible.

Considering the old arena-and-TV-production-truck method of replay review had a 90 percent success rate, as estimated Thursday by NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn, the league’s quest for greater accuracy and efficiency in swiftly adjudicating the trickiest plays is an admirable one.

Complicated and expensive, too. No one talked of the price tag Thursday during a media walk-through of the facility, which is headquartered with NBA Entertainment. But some of the other numbers tossed around were staggering:

  • 300 billion bits of information per second, in terms of processing multiple HD video streams and photos. The new network’s capacity is 66 times greater than the previous system, vast and fast enough to download the entire digitized content of the Library of Congress (more than 158 million items) in about a half hour.
  • 31,500 hours of video to be reviewed in the 2014-15 season alone.
  • 94 flat-screen TV monitors, 32 of them touch-screen, and 20 replay stations in the center.
  • 15 replay operators, one each for the maximum number of games in a single day, finding and feeding the critical plays to one of three replay managers for interaction with the in-arena referee crew chief.
  • 15 replay “triggers” or game situations that allow for review, up from 14 last season.

The room looks like the wonkiest sports bar in America, a cross between a TV production booth, an air-traffic control tower and the CTU HQ Jack Bauer occasionally dropped by.

As formidable as the replay center looks, the process will continue to be dictated by the game officials in Charlotte, Portland or wherever. But rather than relying on a monitor at the scorer’s table linked only to a truck in the arena parking lot – where the broadcast production staffers have enough work to manage the telecast – the crew chief will connect directly to a replay manager.

That manager – described by Joe Borgia, NBA senior VP, replay and referee operations, as a “basketball junkie” with training as a ref, a techie or both – will have at his disposal angles quickly cued up from the assigned replay operator. The crew chief will be able to request zoom, split screens, slo-motion, real-time speed, freeze frames and up to four angles on one screen. Until now, the refs were shown angles sequentially, sometimes seeing the best one after it already had appeared on the arena videoboard.

One important point: The crew chief still will make the final decision. The replay gurus in Secaucus – who occasionally will be watched while they’re watching by a camera mounted high in the room, to show TV audiences how the sausage gets made – will simply select what they deem to be the best angles of the plays in question.

“They’re just giving us the views so we can make the correct calls,” ref Jim Capers said Thursday during a Q&A session.

That’s different from the NHL and MLB, where determinations are made by the replay center administrators. The NBA isn’t ready to take that step yet, Thorn said.

“We don’t want to take it away from the referee right now,” Thorn said. “But he may ask for some support from here. We’re going to have these things cued up for him and most of ‘em are going to be, ‘Well, there it is.’

“Our feeling was, we’re going to leave the ultimate decision in the hand of the on-court crew chief with his guys – for right now. But that may come. You have a chip in your ear, you’re running down the floor, you wave your hand about a 3-point shot and Joe Borgia says [from back at the replay center] ‘His foot was on the line. It was a 2.’ So you don’t even have to go over to the [monitor]. But we’re not there yet.”

Nor, Thorn said, is the NBA ready to adopt a challenge system similar to those used in the NFL and MLB in which coaches and managers can choose to have certain calls reviewed. That will be experimented with this season in the NBA Development League and it was discussed “very seriously,” Thorn said, at the NBA Competition Committee’s two more recent meetings.

“If you talk to the coaches, and we have three coaches on our Competition Committee, they would like to challenge judgment calls,” Thorn said. “That’s a little different.”

Those second-guesses might be better left to the microchips when the time comes. In the meantime, the NBA has its new high-tech house of correctness.

New Wizards-Bulls feud couldn’t wait


VIDEO: Scuffle leads to suspensions, fines for Wizards, Bulls

CHICAGO – Randy Wittman didn’t think much of the question. Not nearly as much of it as I did, for instance, seeing as how I was the one who asked it Monday night: Would the bad blood and feistiness of the Washington Wizards’ first-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls carry over to the preseason opener for both teams?

“In an exhibition?” Wittman, the Wizards coach, said with a chuckle. “You need a storyline, huh?”

We got a storyline that night. And we got another one Wednesday afternoon, when the NBA announced that four of Wittman’s players were suspended for one game for leaving the bench area during an altercation between Washington’s Paul Pierce and Chicago’s Joakim Noah in the first quarter Monday at United Center.

In the first quarter. Of, yes, an exhibition.

Additionally, Pierce and Noah were fined $15,000 each for their roles in the scuffle. A scuffle that didn’t realize, apparently, that it was supposed to wait another month or so.

“Obviously once we get going and the season winds in here, those things play out,” Wittman had said about 90 minutes before Monday’s tipoff. “Not so much a game like this where a lot of people will be playing, the lineups will be different… I’m sure when it rolls around to November, that will be a little bit different.”

The next round, er, game between the Wizards and the Bulls will be in Washington on Dec. 23, the first of four regular-season meetings in a simmering new rivalry.

Wittman’s instincts must not have been in championship-season shape yet, because things boiled over Monday with 8:57 left in the opening quarter.

Pierce fouled Chicago’s Jimmy Butler hard across the jaw. While the referees gathered to review the play as a flagrant or common foul, Pierce and Noah exchanged words and Noah pushed at the veteran forward. Pierce reacted by poking a finger into Noah’s forehead, which sparked an NBA version of a baseball fight.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who was on Boston’s staff when Pierce and the Celtics won a championship in 2008 and has been Noah’s coach since 2010, found himself smack in the middle like a pro wrestling ref dwarfed by the combatants. Chicago fans reacted like it was a Bears or Blackhawks game.

“It was great,” Noah said after the game. “It got all the summer out of me. It feels good to be back on the court.”

That was the problem for Washington: Nene, DeJuan Blair, Daniel Orton and Xavier Silas all left their team’s bench area and moved in the direction of the skirmish at the scorer’s table. That brought the automatic suspensions from NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn. They will be served in the Wizards’ season opener or the first regular season game in which each player is physically able to play.

Pierce wasn’t around for the playoff clash last spring, but he and the Bulls didn’t much like each other in his Boston or Brooklyn days, either.

“That’s just the tension between these two teams that’s kind of now carrying over to this year, I feel like,” Pierce said. “I’m a part of it now. Even when I was with the Celtics, that’s how I was with them.”

At the end of the third quarter, Washington’s Kevin Seraphin set a hard screen on Butler and was called for an offensive foul. He stood over the fallen Bulls player for a beat too long, in Butler’s opinion, prompting more shoves.

It was hard not to connect the dots back to last spring and the teams’ heated first-round series. Noah and a member of the Wizards’ security team had a testy exchange at the morning shootaround before Game 3 in Washington. That night, Nene and Butler literally butted heads in an on-court confrontation, with the Wizards’ big man getting ejected and suspended from Game 4.

Then there was the fact the Wizards eliminated the Bulls in five games. It was a sign of Washington’s ascendancy with its precocious backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, while at the same time abruptly ending another season Chicago had begun, at least, with hopes of title contention.

That’s why some folks anticipated chippiness Monday, preseason or not.

“Whatever it was, I guess that’s what it’s going to come down to every time we play them guys,” Butler said. “I guess guys just don’t like us. I’m cool if they don’t like me.”

Said Wall: “That lets you know how it’s going to be for the four times we play them in the regular season. It might get a lot worse than that.”

Grab your calendar now: Dec. 23, Jan. 9, Jan. 14 and March 3. Might as well circle the dates in red, since both teams will be seeing red.

Ref Bavetta got overruled on final call

After 39 years reffing games on NBA courts, Dick Bavetta is calling it a career. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

After 39 seasons reffing games on NBA courts, Dick Bavetta is calling it a career. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

It was time for another family meeting, no different from the annual confabs they’d had for the previous half dozen years. Every Fourth of July weekend, at their log cabin retreat in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, Dick Bavetta would put the question to his wife Paulette and daughters Christine and Michele:

What d’ya think? One more season?

“We usually put it to a vote,” Bavetta said this week. “And I don’t get a vote. They basically listen to what I have to say and then they vote. The last six years, it’s always been 2-1 to go back. Christine, who’s like our Wall Street wizard, she’d always say, ‘Daddy, why are you subjecting yourself to all this travel and everything?’

“This year when we met, it was 3-0 to retire.”

Whoa. That result rocked Bavetta in his chair, the idea that after 39 years running the courts of the NBA as one of its most durable and most visible referees, Bavetta would be done. But after a record 2,635 consecutive regular-season games — a streak that earned Bavetta attention and kudos rare during most of his working years -– along with 270 playoff appearances and 27 Finals games, now seemed as good a time as any.

Season after season, Bavetta was out there, a familiar face to players, to coaches and to certain diehard fans around the league who, whether they realized it or not, had become familiar faces to him. This season, he won’t be.

“I said, ‘What’s the thinking here?’ ” Bavetta recalled. “They said, ‘You’re 74 years old’ — and I say this with humility — ‘and you’ve pretty much accomplished everything there was to accomplish.’ ” (more…)

Silver confident Sterling mess is ‘over’


VIDEO: Adam Silver talks to the media about the Clippers sale

SAN ANTONIO – Adam Silver wasn’t ready to, er, dunk the basketball – it wouldn’t do for the NBA commissioner to be spiking the football under any circumstances – but he stood before a media throng Sunday calm and confident that the Donald Sterling/racist comments fiasco soon would be over.

Six weeks and one day earlier, Silver had faced the first serious challenge of his rookie year as commissioner – Sterling’s offensive remarks had blown up on April 26 and Silver held two news conferences in rapid succession: the first an impromptu session in Memphis for damage control and awareness, the second just three days later to announce the sanctions against Sterling and his eventual banishment from the league.

Fast-forward to Sunday: The Clippers are being sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a jaw-dropping $2 billion (nearly quadruple the largest franchise price in NBA history) and Shelly Sterling, Donald’s wife, has indemnified the league against any lawsuit brought by her husband, which of course he has.

As Silver fielded questions before Game 2 of The Finals, he or any of his constituencies – the owners, the players, even the fans – hardly could have hoped for a swifter, more satisfying outcome.

Though, to be completely accurate and cautious, the deal and the departure of Sterling as embarrassment and antagonist is at the rim, not quite through the net (see, can’t use goal line imagery either).

“We’re almost there,” Silver said. “There is this last piece, and that is the lawsuit that Donald brought against the league and me personally.”

That’s where the indemnification part comes in. “In essence,” Silver said, “Donald is suing himself and he knows that. While I understand he is frustrated, I think it’s over. It’s just a matter of time now and then we will move on to better topics and back to The Finals.”

The topics Silver had to deal with Sunday mostly alternated between Sterling updates and more info on the loss of air conditioning at Game 1 of Miami-San Antonio series Thursday at the AT&T Center.

Regarding the Sterlings, Silver shot down reports that Shelly Sterling might have some sort of ongoing role with the Clippers after Ballmer’s purchase is complete. She would dedicate some of the proceeds of the sale to a charitable foundation over which she would preside, but “that’s her money,” Silver said. It won’t be affiliated with the basketball team.

Silver said the other penalties against Sterling – his ban from even attending NBA games and a $2.5 million fine – definitely remain in place. He said he spoke to the disgraced Clippers owner in a phone call soon after the sanctions were announced April 29 and described Sterling as “distraught” and “not remorseful.”

As for Sterling’s professional history – he had been charged with racially discriminatory practices more than a decade ago in housing disputes and in his dealings with former Clippers GM Elgin Baylor – Silver was non-committal on the NBA failing to act in those instances. He said the league monitored the civil cases brought against Sterling, the investigations by the Department of Housing and Department of Justice and the eventual settlements (without admission of guilt) or, in the Baylor case, no judgment against the billionaire.

“It’s a fair point that in hindsight possibly we should have done more,” Silver said. “Certainly if I had to do it again, maybe we would have done more. But our eyes are open going forward.”

Regarding the extreme heat of Game 1 once the cooling system malfunctioned – and the cramps that sent LeBron James from the game in the final minutes, seemingly sealing Miami’s loss – Silver acknowledged it as “not one of my prouder moments in my short tenure as commissioner.”

But he was at the game, too, and felt that he and Rod Thorn, the league’s head of basketball operations, had the best available info from the AT&T Center maintenance crew. “There was never a point where we were considering either postponing or cancelling the game,” Silver said.

He added: “I’m glad this isn’t single elimination; it’s the best of seven. So it’s too early to say how this Finals will be remembered.”

Morning Shootaround — June 6


VIDEO: The Daily Zap from Game 1 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A new referendum on LeBron | Spurs Way rises in the heat | Green burns the Heat … again | Jackson-Fisher set to talk

No. 1: A new referendum on LeBron The Alamo won’t go down as one of the favorite places LeBron James has been during his worldly travels. The Miami Heat star wilted under the intense heat at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday night, sparking a new round of criticism from folks who question his mental (and now physical) toughness. And as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports points out, the LeBron debate once again snatches the spotlight from The Finals itself and a Spurs team that put together a monster and record-setting fourth quarter shooting barrage to win the game:

Fair or not, this NBA Finals is now very much about LeBron James because no matter the reality of how a propensity to cramp is the sole known downside to having a 6-foot-8, 265-pound body capable of playing all five positions on the court, no one was spending any time postgame defending him.

“Look,” Heat coach Erik Spolestra said, “both teams had to do it, we’re not making excuses.”

Instead Miami pointed to poor defense (the Spurs shot 58.8 percent from the floor), bad defensive rotations in crunch time sans-LeBron, and its 16 turnovers. The heat, they actually reveled in. LeBron’s faltering, after scoring 25 points and grabbing six rebounds, was shrugged off. Who needs AC? Ray Allen said it reminded him of his non-air conditioned high school gym back in Dalzell, South Carolina.

“I loved it,” Allen said. “… I felt right at home. Keeps my body loose.”

Shane Battier pointed to his college days at Duke, where Cameron Indoor Stadium at the time was left to the elements – and heated by tightly packed Cameron Crazies.

“It didn’t bother me,” Battier said. “It was that hot in Cameron Indoor every single game. It was a huge, huge advantage. Ten thousand people on you, no AC.”

The Spurs’ Tony Parker went with his days back in France and across the European leagues.

“We never have AC in Europe,” Parker said, “so it didn’t bother me at all.”

Even Dwyane Wade just shrugged. Heat and humidity isn’t normally part of the NBA these days, but the game is the game.

“If you play basketball,” Wade said, “you play basketball where it’s hot like this. I think everybody has done it before.”

This sounded like a parade of tough guy talk radio callers wanting to bolster themselves with the illusion of being stronger than LeBron. Only it was James’ teammates and peers, and that’s why this won’t be easy to shake.

Physically, with Game 2 not coming until Sunday, LeBron will recover. Image wise, he’s back to getting bashed like back before he became a champion.

“Everybody was tired,” the Spurs’ Danny Green said. “Everybody was sluggish.”

No sympathy. Just high stakes.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew discusses LeBron and his cramping up late in Game 1

(more…)

No-no Nene, but Wizards still confident

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nene suspended for one game after head-butt

WASHINGTON — It’s one thing to stand toe-to-toe against the raw physicality of the Bulls in the playoffs.

It’s a whole different challenge when you’re missing your big toe.

But with power forward Nene suspended by the NBA for head-butting and grabbing Jimmy Butler around the neck with both hands on Friday night, coach Randy Wittman says the Wizards are still on solid footing.

“We’re more than capable with who we have on this team,” he said a short time before the suspension was announced. “That’s just it. It could happen to anybody. … Somebody could come in sick and somebody’s gotta step up. That’s cliche, I know, but that’s the way it is.”

The Wizards had already completed their Saturday practice when the suspension was made official by Rod Thorn, NBA president, basketball operations.

Nene was unavailable for comment.

The incident occurred with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter of Chicago’s 100-97 win in Game 3, which sliced the Washington lead in the series to 2-1.

After scoring on a fast-break layup, Nene turned to run back up the court and lifted his left arm to clip Butler with a chicken wing as he ran by. Butler objected verbally and reached out with his right hand to give Nene a shove in the side.

As the two players stepped toward each other, the 6-foot-11 Nene leaned down and pressed his head against Butler’s. Then Nene clasped both of his hands around Butler’s neck.

When asked if he thought anything he saw merited a suspension, Wittman replied: “No, I don’t.”

Regardless, the Wizards have to play without their big man, who is averaging 17 points, 6.3 rebounds per game and has done an outstanding job of negating the play in the paint by the Bulls’ Joakim Noah.

The Wizards do have plenty experience playing without Nene as he missed 29 games during the regular season. Washington was 1-6 without him when Nene was shelved for two games with a strained left calf and five games with a sore right foot early in the season. But they were a more successful 12-10 without Nene in the lineup when he suffered a sprained left knee.

“Obviously, it’s gonna be a huge loss for us,” said center Marcin Gortat. “We played without Nene over the 82 games and the situation is totally different then. But we’ll see. We’ll see.

“You gotta bring it. You gotta bring it. There’s an opportunity for me to play bigger role. The inside offense is gonna go through me. I just gotta perform. I gotta be on top of my game.”

Wittman said the last thing he wants his team to do is react to the Game 3 incident by taking the edge off their game and backing down from Chicago’s rough-and-tumble style.

“I told our players, you can be confrontational and do it in a way that doesn’t cost you an ejection,” Wittman said. “We’ve seen it the first two games and nobody’s been thrown out. It’s a matter of making sure in those situations that you keep your composure. It gets physical out there. There’s a lot of pushing and shoving and talking and … it’s a fine line of crossing the line that gets you to the point of ejection or not.

“We just gotta make sure we keep our composure in that area. I don’t want them stepping back at all from a physicality standpoint. Not at all. It just reaches a line and we got to know where that line is.”

Gortat nodded his head in agreement.

“X’s and O’s are one thing,” he said. “At the end of the day physicality is the will of winning the basketball game. … There’s a time to do X’s and O’s and a time to fight and scrap and just play the way they play us. Unfortunately, things went wrong for us.”

The Wizards did manage to duck the double-whammy of losing Gortat as well. Video replays showed the center, who was out of the game at the time, leaving the bench and stepping slightly onto the court when the scuffle broke out.

According to NBA rules, any player who leaves the bench area during a fight on the court is subject to suspension.

“It’s not like I was running and yelling and screaming,” Gortat said. “I was just standing there and had no idea what was going on. At some point actually I realized I was on the court, I started taking steps back because I was like, ‘I don’t think I supposed to be here.’ So I started walking back. I was just shocked what was going on on the court at that time.”

Backup forward Trevor Booker started 45 games this season, many of them when Nene was injured. He was one of the closest players to Nene and Butler when they locked up.

“I didn’t know how far it would go. Unfortunately it went too far where he got ejected,” Booker said. “Somebody else has got to step up. He’s a big piece, but we got some games without him that we won.

“We lost focus, but we’ll get it back tomorrow. You got to do what you got to do.”

NBA offers some ref transparency, playoff ‘points of emphasis’

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

Granted, it’s not always satisfying when the NBA issues an officiating verdict the day after a disputed play. Learning 18 hours later that, yes, a foul should have been called on that final missed field-goal attempt in Team A’s 1-point loss doesn’t change the W-L records of the squads involved and rarely calms fans who felt their team got jobbed.

But transparency beats opacity, even after the fact, so the league regularly has tried to review, interpret and explain its many calls and non-calls ASAP. One way to do that now, with the playoffs approaching and stakes and emotions getting ever higher, is through a follow of @NBAOfficial on Twitter. That account will provide updates and clarifications on rules and fouls in the closest thing to real time, while educating some fans on what does or doesn’t constitute an instant-replay “trigger.”

The Twitter feed was one of the reminders Thursday to media folks in the league’s 2014 basketball & referee operations WebEx online meeting. A fleet of NBA executives provided updates and answered questions about the season and looming postseason, including “points of emphasis” that will remain high on referees’ radar as the playoffs unfold.

Participating in the multi-media event: Rod Thorn, president, basketball operations; Mike Bantom, executive vice president, referee operations; Kiki VanDeWeghe, senior vice president, basketball operations; Joe Borgia, vice president, referee operations; and Don Vaden, VP & director of officials.

One thing fans might notice again this spring is a change that was initiated for the 2013 playoffs: Keeping referees together in the same crew to develop familiarity and continuity in their court coverage.

Traditionally, three referees come together pretty much randomly to officiate NBA games, compared to MLB umpires, who work most of the season in set four-man crews.

Vaden said that last spring, the league booked two referees as a tandem for each game, with the third official rotating through. “Ken Mauer and Ed Malloy worked every game together,” Vaden said, offering an example. “We’re more consistent in what we’re doing on the floor when we do that.”

This used to be standard procedure, Thorn recalled. “There was a time way back when crews were kept together,” he said. “There was a time when the same two referees refereed all the games in The Finals.”

In addition to the logical benefits of refs working together, Vaden mentioned some secondary ones off the floor in terms of reviews and communication.

“Keeping the guys together, traveling together, they can review more video of the games,” he said. “They’re easier for me to get a hold of than in the regular season. Even on off-days they’re together in the same hotels, so we can do a review from their last game and give them a preview of the game to come.”

The review process of referee performance has grown more thorough through the years, with a centralized group of eight reviewers in the office in New Jersey handling most of the heavy lifting. Teams also submit feedback, and the league has made it a priority to keep teams, players, coaches, media and fans in the loop with rulings and updated points of emphasis.

The selection process to work in, and advance through, the postseason is rigorous, Bantom said. From the regular-season pool of 62 referees, 32 are identified based on performance criteria to work the first round. That gets cut to 20 for the conference semifinals, 16 for the East and West finals and 12 assigned to The Finals. Guidelines in the playoffs include: no back-to-back games for officials, no more than three games worked in a week and, ideally, not reappearing in a series before Game 6 (loosened to Game 5 in The Finals).

Speaking about the NBA in general in 2013-14, with the transition from David Stern to Adam Silver in the commissioner’s office, VanDeWeghe said: “Our focus has been transparency and inclusion. We want to include more people in our discussions. Improve communications with teams, players, media and fans. We want to share more information and just the processes of what we go through. You can never tell where a great idea comes from, and we’d like to hear from you. This is our game together.”

The POE this postseason will largely be a continuation of those introduced back in October. Among them, Vaden spoke of:

  • Freedom of movement, including illegal screens.
  • Traveling calls, especially on the perimeter.
  • Point-of-contact plays, before, during and after shot attempts. “We have clarified the rule for teams, that if it affects the natural follow-through, even though the ball was released, we would penalize the defender,” Vaden said. “Hits on the elbow, we’ve gotten better at.”
  • Push or pull plays, physically redirecting an opponent.
  • Delay-of-game calls for handling the ball after it passes through the net. Said Vaden: “Everybody complained, but after about a month of the season, everybody’s running from the ball. The players have done a great job in adapting to this.”
  • Verticality. “It’s easy for us to call ‘A’ to ‘B’ movement,” Vaden said, referring to a defender who goes up in the air but not quite straight up. “As the season went on, we saw more of the defender turning in the air and [confronting the ball handler] with his side.” That’s a defensive foul too. But a scorer who wards off the defender with an arm, leads with a knee or elbow or even “displaces” the man so he cannot rebound can wind up with an offensive foul.

Borgia reminded participants that the NBA’s system of points and suspensions for flagrant fouls and technical fouls resets for the playoffs. The trigger numbers in the postseason are four points for flagrants, seven for technicals.

Several execs weighed in on “hand on the ball” interpretations, which came up again Tuesday on the final play of the Brooklyn-Miami game. That’s when LeBron James went up for what could have been a game-winning dunk, only to have the ball knocked loose – and his hand or wrist smacked, James complained – by Nets forward Mason Plumlee.

Plumlee was credited with a game-saving block and the league’s brass supported that call.

“Frame by frame, you can see that Plumlee got his hand on the ball before there was any contact hand-to-hand,” Thorn said. “That was basically LeBron’s hand coming forward and interlocking with Plumlee. A very, very close play. Very, very difficult to see. I think the refs did a great job in ascertaining what they did.”

Borgia attempted to simplify for the online audience what many folks don’t get quite right.

“If they hit a part of my hand or finger that is physically on the ball, that is considered hitting the ball and not a foul,” the referee-turned-supervisor said. “I think there is some misconception out there. … On a jump shot, most of the time the ball is more on your fingertips and not sitting in the palm of your hand. If someone hits the back of the hand, that would be a foul.”

Transparency, see. It might not alter a critic’s opinion of a call but it can aid in the understanding.

Goaltending should have been called, but changes nothing

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is all for transparency when it comes to NBA officiating. However, the league’s admission Wednesday that the referees should have called goaltending late in overtime of Dallas’ 122-120 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night won’t make him feel any better.

Cuban was furious over the no-call that saw Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal block Mavs guard Monta Ellis‘ baseline floater with 16 seconds left in overtime and with the score tied 120-120. O’Neal passed to Draymond Green, who quickly got it to Stephen Curry, who made the game-winning shot with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Cuban leaped out of his baseline chair and continued to voice his disagreement to the officiating crew of Danny CrawfordSean Corbin and Eric Dalen from behind the scorers table after the game.


VIDEO: O’Neal’s block leads to Curry’s game-winner

After a review of the play by the league office, Rod Thorn, NBA president of basketball operations, issued the following statement:

“Upon review at the league office, we have found that a shot taken by Dallas’ Monta Ellis with 16.0 seconds remaining in overtime was on the way down when initially contacted and ruled a block by Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal, and should have been ruled a goaltend. The exact trajectory of the ball when touched was impossible to ascertain with the naked eye, and the play was not reviewable.”

Playoff implications were high. Golden State entered as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference and Dallas as the No. 7 seed. Had Dallas won it would have moved just one-half game behind the Warriors. The loss instead dropped them to ninth place and out of the playoff picture, at least temporarily. Had the Warriors lost, their already slim margin for error to maintain playoff position would have shrunk with a tough matchup ahead tonight at West-leading San Antonio.

Dallas led 106-102 with 1:43 to go in regulation and 108-105 with 1:16 to go, but it couldn’t close it out, a central theme in the Mavs’ disappointing 4-4 homestand that concluded with the loss to Golden State. They also led 117-113 with 2:32 to go in overtime, but were then outscored 5-0 in relinquishing the lead. Tied 120-120, Ellis tried to beat his defender Klay Thompson to the right, but Thompson stayed in front of him and forced Ellis to take a fallaway near the baseline. O’Neal, who was dunked on by Ellis late in the fourth quarter, went up and snatched the ball out of mid-air.

The Mavs raised their arms in unison, stunned that no goaltending call had been made.

“I think his [Ellis’] layup has a chance to get to the rim, and if that’s the case, you can’t just get it out of the air,” Nowitzki said. “To me, that’s a goaltend. I asked the referees what happened. The explanation was that the ball was two feet short. If that’s the case, then he can get it out of the air, but where I was from, I think it had a chance to at least hit the rim. That’s a goaltend to me.”

O’Neal disagreed as he described the play in the  Warriors’ locker room.

“It was like a second away from goaltending, if you’re too late, and I was on top of it,” O’Neal said. “I blocked it, grabbed it and outlet it. There’s no way they could have called that. When your hand is on top of the ball, that’s a good block. I caught it like this (showing his hand on top of the ball), I didn’t bat it, I caught it like this, so there’s no way they could have called it goaltending.”

Turns out O’Neal was wrong and Cuban was right. It doesn’t matter. The league’s admission does nothing to change the outcome of the game.

Delay Of Game: Refs, Players Adjusting


VIDEO: Bulls’ delay of game

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The NBA’s newest rule crackdown has created quite a stir. Players are reprogramming their actions, some quicker than others. Some announcers are misconstruing the rule’s intent. And fans are wondering why a delay of game penalty seems only to be causing further delay.

“Right now, it’s slowing down the game because of all the stoppages,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But these players are great and they always adapt. As they get used to it, they’re going to leave it alone and it’ll work out. So whatever the rules are, that’s what you go by. And I think it got to the point where it was too much.”

Too much, as Thibs says, was constant under-the-basket interference with the ball. Players on the team that had just scored were too often grabbing the ball as it dropped through the net and either casually flipping it to the official or tapping it any which way but to the opposing player waiting to get his team running up the court.

A growing number of teams — the Houston Rockets, for one — prefer to push the ball up the floor after made baskets to catch the retreating defense at a disadvantage. The stall tactic of catching the ball or knocking it away after a made basket buys the scoring team a second or two to set up defensively.

“I used to hit the ball a little bit to give me a second or two,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert admitted. “But now you can’t.”

Now, such actions result in a delay of game penalty. The first draws a warning. The second results in a technical foul and a free throw for the other team.

Everybody received a heaping dose of the new rule during the preseason.

“It’s the right thing and it’s pretty clear,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, a member of the league’s nine-member competition committee. “If you touch it you know you’re getting hit, so just leave it alone.”

Said Pacers coach Frank Vogel: “Guys are learning to ‘hot potato’ it. They tell us to treat it like a ‘hot potato’ and move on.”

The Rockets were the most vocal agent for change. Their frustration came to a head during their first-round playoff series with Oklahoma City, who, the Rockets believed, were intentionally messing with the ball after made baskets to slow them down. In fact, under the new rules, the Thunder were nailed three times for the infraction in their season-opener against Utah and Wednesday against the high-pace Mavericks. Center Kendrick Perkins used his big right paw to intentionally swat the ball away, drawing a whistle for delay of game.


VIDEO: Thunder delay of game

Some announcers, ironically including Houston’s, have explained the rule as being designed to shorten the duration of a game. But it’s really about the pace at which the game is played.

Houston led the NBA last season in pace (possessions per 48 minutes). The club calculated that it had scored 1,131 points on the initial shot taken in 10 seconds or less after a basket by the other team. No team came close. The Lakers were second with 972 transition points after made baskets. Getting the ball up the floor quickly, even after made baskets, was paramount to the Rockets’ offensive strategy.

“A team like us that plays an up-tempo pace, it [the new rule] definitely should favor us,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “We want to get up. We want to get the ball out as fast as we can. Not having teams do that and slow us down on the break is definitely going to help us a lot.”

While the Rockets were out front on the issue, they were hardly the only ones arguing for the league to take action. The push gained steamed throughout last season, according to Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations. The NBA decided to take a closer look during the 2013 playoffs and found that, in a sample of 78 playoff games, the new delay of game penalty could have been enforced 306 times, or 3.9 times a game.

“It had been talked about before that it was a detriment to the offensive team if the team that had just scored was taking the ball and knocking it away or holding the ball and was allowing the defenses to get back and get set up, and that that was not a good thing for our game,” Thorn said. “So that was the genesis for why it was put in. A lot of teams like to move the ball up and down the floor so we want to give them every opportunity.”

The penalty was one of five officiating points of emphasis for this season. A crackdown on illegal screens has produced a spike in those calls, according to the league. The league also has seen a rise in delay of game penalties. Everybody’s noticed. How could you not? The preseason was littered with the call, and officials have kept a tight watch during the first week of the regular season.

According to the league, through the first 59 games last season, 22 delay of game penalties were called. Through 59 games this season (through Tuesday’s games) 85 delay of game penalties were called — 70 being a result of the new rule.

“You have to play with great discipline to be a good player in this league,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “To not be able to bat the ball away when it goes through the basket should not be that hard of a thing, especially when it costs your team points.”

The fear  is that the rule will be enforced to the letter of the law and that an untimely touching of the ball late in the game could cost a team a valuable point. During the preseason, players were concerned that they’d get tagged with a penalty for making incidental contact or for an instinctual catch of the ball and quick toss to the referee.

“It is instinctual to reach for it, that’s why I said, even if the ball hits you when you’re right by it and it does touch you, they can’t call it,” said Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, who nonetheless thinks players will quickly adjust to the rule.

According to Thorn, if a player catches the ball and quickly drops it, play will continue. Same for incidental contact.

“I think they’ve kind of, maybe, toned it down a little bit as they realized that, ‘OK, some of the calls that were being made were not in the truest sense of the law,'” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “I think the referees in the league have done a great job of making it a point of emphasis and then analyzing it and saying, ‘OK, is this what we want?’ They’ve kind of adjusted how they’ve called it, I think, a little bit as well.”


VIDEO: Delay of game, Lakers

Many who observe the league have seen new rules implemented and enforced early in the season, only to see them fade away into rules oblivion. Thorn believes the rule will not be an ongoing source of game delays because players will quickly adjust. And the rule, Thorn said, will not go by the wayside. It will continue to be enforced throughout the season and postseason to ensure the faster pace that players and fans want.

“I’m confident that it will,” Thorn said.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Fran Blinebury, John Schuhmann and Steve Aschburner contributed to this report.

Thorn Returns As NBA ‘Top Cop,’ Jackson Steps Down After 13 Years

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

No, really. Rod Thorn, the longtime NBA and team executive who served 14 years as the league’s head of basketball operations, will return Aug. 1 with the title President, Basketball Operations.

Thorn, 72, will take over as CDO – chief discipline officer – from Stu Jackson, who has filled that role for 13 years as NBA executive vice president in Thorn’s, er, hiatus. During Jackson’s tenure, he oversaw all on-court and international basketball operations, conduct, discipline and analytics, while also serving as chairman of the NBA’s competition committee and on FIBA’s competition commission and USA Basketball’s Board of Directors.

NBA commissioner David Stern, in a statement, said that Jackson informed the NBA’s hierarchy that this was “the appropriate time to step down.” “We thank Stu for a job very well done, including assisting with the transition to Rod, and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Stern said in a statement.

Jackson, 57, previously worked in collegiate or pro basketball, dating back to assistant coach stints at Oregon, Washington State and Providence College. He served two seasons (1989-91) as head coach of the New York Knicks, spent two years (1992-94) as head coach at Wisconsin and was president and general manager of the Vancouver Grizzlies, also coaching that team over the second half of the 1996-97 season.

Thorn similarly has left fingerprints throughout the league. Most recently, the popular former coach and player had served as president of the Philadelphia 76ers. Before that, he worked in the same capacity with the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, where he was named NBA Executive of the Year.

A prep star at Princeton High in West Virginia, Thorn was picked second in the 1963 NBA Draft, immediately ahead of Hall of Fame center Nate Thurmond. He played eight seasons, then moved to front-office and coaching roles in the ABA and the NBA. Thorn was the Chicago Bulls’ GM who drafted Michael Jordan in 1984.

From 1986 to 2000, Thorn worked alongside Stern in the job, essentially, he has again. Though a year older than Stern, Thorn is returning as the commissioner prepares for his exit on Feb. 1, 2014, after 30 years in the position.

“His basketball knowledge and team relationships are unparalleled,” Stern said. “We are fortunate that his talents are available to serve the league at this time.”

Thorn’s background – to play off a famous comment by Stern, the new EVP surely knows where a lot of the league’s bodies are buried, too – should serve as a solid resource for incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Kiki VanDeWeghe, a recent addition as senior VP, basketball operations, will report to Thorn, as will Mike Bantom, EVP, referee operations.

“I am looking forward to serving all 30 teams and our sport and am honored to be at the league office to help continue the game’s extraordinary growth,” Thorn said. “As the NBA turns increasingly to analytics and continues to tap into its growing fan and player base on a global basis, there is much work to be done.”

There was plenty of work in Thorn’s first go-round as the league’s top cop. As he recalled to NBA.com in an August 2010 interview, being sheriff didn’t make him the most popular fellow around the league.

“I loved working in the front office, where I was in charge of issuing fines, among other things. This was during the Pistons and all the Bad Boy stuff. They gave me no choice; I had to fine them a few times. One day the Pistons were in New York to play the Knicks, and the NBA offices are located in Midtown. I was out to lunch when Ricky Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer came by the office. They had a very professional-looking sign with them, and they super-glued it to my door. And the sign said: ‘This office was furnished through fines paid for by the Detroit Pistons.’ Well, we couldn’t get the sign off …’ “

Pistons fans got to know Thorn well:

“Another time in Detroit, I was sitting a few rows up, and with about a minute left in the game, a guy walks by and says, ‘You’re a [bleep].’ I don’t say anything, I just let him keep walking. And then this older lady, who’s sitting in front of me, turns around and says, ‘That guy is right. You are a [bleep].’

“I was with Horace Balmer, the director of security, and he says, ‘I’m never sitting here with you again.'”

Thorn is back to endear himself to new generations of NBA fans.