Friday, September 28, 2007

New Rule, Same Problem

We haven't heard much about the NBA referees since the Tim Donaghy scandal broke this summer. Of course, that still means we heard a lot more about the NBA officials this summer than we usually do.

What isn't being broadcast too widely is that there is a new rule going into effect this season and it doesn't involve gambling. That was already outlawed and you don't need a new rule every time someone breaks one, contrary to popular opinion. After all the rule against murder is still in place and yet people are still killed in this country. We don't need a new rule against gambling any more than we need a new rule against committing murder. Everyone already knows what the boundaries are -- they simply choose to cross them anyways.

This season referees will be allowed to go to an instant replay monitor after a flagrant foul is called to determine the severity (flagrant foul 1 or flagrant foul 2 which means automatic ejection). Yes, instant replay has now officially entered the NBA.

It is unknown at this time if an opposing coach will be given a red flag to throw on the court if he wants to initiate a review or not but I wouldn't suppose that there would be.

The funny thing is that while this is a step in the right direction, how many times in a season is a flagrant foul called anyway? I mean, do the powers that be really feel that this is the most important rule change they need to make this year?

I know I am only dreaming, but wouldn't it make more sense to take a serious look at the real problem behind NBA officiating? You don't know what the real problem is you say? Well I can promise you it isn't flagrant foul calls.

The real problem among NBA officials is the difficulty in properly administering three different sets of rules. You have the star rules, the veteran rules and the rookie rules in the NBA. Only in the NBA do you routinely hear announcers and fans say "he won't get that call as a rookie." What does that mean? Can you imagine a baseball game where a runner gets called out at 2nd and the announcer says "you knew the call was going to go that way, after all he's a rookie." How about an offensive lineman not being called for holding against a rookie defensive lineman and an announcer saying "we you can't expect a rookie to get that call." You hear comments like this all the time in the NBA.

I can actually swallow rookie calls more than the Superstar rules. This is the most egregious abuse of referee power in the league. When was the last time a star player was fouled out of a game? Referees deliberately avoid fouling out star players because there is that unwritten rule that ejecting a star denies the fans their opportunity to see these players in person. Rasheed Wallace said after a game that he knew he wouldn't be fouled out in overtime and that he actually committed more fouls during the extra period than he did in regulation.

Remember when Dwyane Wade went to the line 21 times against Dallas in the playoffs compared to 23 for the entire Mavs team? It happens every night in the NBA. Certain players are judged differently than the rest. Either they simply can't foul out or every missed shot draws a foul call, the league has a serious image problem with biased referee calls.

So forget instant replay on flagrant fouls Stu Jackson, and instead, deal with the real issue of preferential treatment by referees. Until you address that problem no one will believe that the games aren't fixed and that maybe the refs have something more on the game than just their eyes.


zack said...

I think the whole way NBA games gets officiated needs changed. I would borrow aspects from football and tennis. The details of exactly what I have in mind escape me right now, but I like the idea of having 1 (or 2?) refs perched on a pedestal (like in tennis) so that they have a better view of the court. And then the duties of what the seated refs and on court refs are watching for would be split up (much like in football, certain refs are responsible for certain aspects of the game)...

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify: there will only be replay review in the event a) a flagrant foul penalty two is called or b) there is a physical altercation.

So, there won't be a review if there's a flagrant penalty one called. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that a flagrant two (which carries automatic ejection) is indeed the correct call and a player is not needlessly ejected from a game. Also, referees will go to the tape in the event of an altercation to make sure that anyone and everyone who had a part is penalized appropriately.

This won't have a huge impact on games as I think there were only a total of 11 flagrant penalty twos called all of last season.

Additional points of emphasis for referees this season include: high pick and roll plays, traveling, palming, block/charge,3 seconds and jump ball (positioning and tosses).