NEW YORK — After further review, the play stands as called.
Not because it was right, but because referees weren’t allowed to determine it was wrong.
NBA officials were already considering expanding referees’ instant replay options before two key plays in this postseason couldn’t be changed even after refs saw them on the monitor.
For now, the rules are clear about what referees can look at. But Commissioner Adam Silver said the league will “inevitably” reach a point where they can do more.
“So far, in terms of all of our triggers, we’ve tried to maintain a line of what is clearly objectively ascertainable,” Silver said Thursday. “You know, foot on the line or not, buzzer or not. My sense is where we’ll end up is giving the referees more discretion over what they can look at once we go to replay.”
Silver’s comments to a group of Associated Press Sports Editors came hours before Atlanta’s Jeff Teague tossed in a wild 3-pointer as he dribbled left with the shot clock winding down and the Hawks leading Indiana by six. When officials later reviewed the shot to see if Teague was behind the arc, it was clear he had first stepped out of bounds before shooting. As Indiana players screamed for the basket to be overturned, referee Tony Brothers explained that it couldn’t be.
The Golden State Warriors hung on for a 109-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their series after a similar replay issue. When officials went to the monitor to review a ball out of bounds with 18.9 seconds left and Golden State leading by two, they could see that the Warriors’ Draymond Green had first fouled Chris Paul. However, because that wasn’t reviewable, all they could rule was the ball had gone off of Paul.
Silver said it’s confusing for viewers to see something obvious on replay, yet the officials appear to have “blinders” on and do nothing about it.
“I think the most difficult area now, even for our fans to understand, is when an official can go to replay and everyone can see something that looks like a foul or wasn’t a foul, but yet the official is restricted from being able to apply, in essence, his judgment on the play,” Silver said. “And I think that’s an area that I think inevitably we’re going to reach, where an official is going to need to have some more discretion.”
But senior vice president of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe said it’s a bit of a “slippery slope” in determining how far officials can look backward before the play they are reviewing.
“Those are things that when you start to have subjective calls and you’re looking at a lot of things, and you’re giving more discretion on what to look at, those are the problems and the issues that you try to figure out,” VanDeWeghe said. “But like Adam said, giving the referees a little bit more discretion when there’s something obvious that happens within the context of the foul, you want to get it right.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers, a member of the league’s competition committee, said the committee talked about it last year. They apparently had the same concerns as VanDeWeghe.
“It’s a hard one. It really is,” Rivers said. “We all want them to get everything right. But how far does that go when you start doing that? How far do you go on that? Did he step on the line? Well, maybe he fouled him. But there was a travel down there. Look, there. At some point, is it just on the ball? Is it off the ball? It can go a long way. Just think, right now we’re looking at one play and it takes five minutes. If you start doing that, it may take forever.”
The competition committee will meet again for two days in July to recommend any changes, which would have to be approved by owners. VanDeWeghe agreed with Silver that the NBA will use more replay.
“It’s always a balancing act at the end of the day because we want to get the calls right, want to have the players decide the game, get the calls right, but also we don’t want to have a four-hour game, so we’re continually balancing it,” VanDeWeghe said. “But if we can utilize replays more, if we can utilize data more, we’re going to do it to make our game better.”