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Common Sense is an Uncommon Thing

Remember in last season's playoffs when Chauncey Billups made a three pointer at the end of the third quarter against Orlando while the game clock was stuck at 4.8 seconds?  Remember how it was pretty obvious that the play should not have counted, that it seemed to take longer than that, but the referees were not allowed to do anything about it because the rules only allow them to check the video in certain, very specific situations? 

In May 2008, after that incident, the NBA rules committee modified the rules concerning the use of replay.  Here's what I said at the time:


To the surprise of no one, the rules committee has voted to expand the use of replay in the case of correctable errors. As always, this change is in direct response to specific problems from this season - the recommendation is that three pointers can be reviewed to see if the shooter was or was not behind the arc, and replays can also be referenced to reconcile clock problems like the one at the end of the third quarter of game 2 between the Pistons and the Magic.

Here's the problem: in an effort to try to limit the impact of replay reviews on the game, the league continually enumerates ONLY the situations in which they can be used. First it was last second shots if there were zeros on the clock. Surprise, surprise, that proved to be inadequate. Now they've added a couple other reviewable things - which will be fine until another situation arises.

Where is the common sense? Could we not live with a rule that says that replays may be used when appropriate, when the importance of the situation warrants an impact on the flow of the game? Is that really that slippery of a slope? We ask referees to make judgement calls about a hundred times a game. This one would be infinitely simpler than most charge-block calls.

When Billups' shot went in while the game clock was frozen at 4.8 seconds? That would be a time to use the replay. (The fact that the refs stood there and discussed how futile they felt for five minutes rendered the only reason NOT to use the replay, that it would create a delay, moot at any rate.) When Cat Mobley was fouled on a last second shot with the Clippers down three but none of the refs saw if his feet were behind the three point line? That  would be another example. They're pretty obvious, really. Instead, we'll get a strict list of allowable review situations, until the next time that something should be reviewed comes up, and then they'll add that one to the list.


Well, guess what?  That "next time that something should be reviewed comes up" has arrived.  It wasn't a playoff game, but TrueHoop has the story on a play at the end of Spurs-Hornets in which 2 to 3 seconds ran off the clock after the whistle, the time keeper (who works for the Hornets since the game was in New Orleans) knew it and wanted to correct it, but the refs maintained that their hands were tied because it wasn't a reviewable situation.  Huh.  If only someone would have realized at the time the rules were changed that the changes were inadequate and that another situation would surely come up?   Oh that's right, I did.

Look, I understand "The Law of Unintended Consequences."  I live in California.  The legislation by referendum madness kicked off by Proposition 13 back when I was a middle schooler makes my day-to-day existence a series of one unintended conseqence after another.  So I understand that the league is reticent to open the perceived Pandora's box of replay review for every situation.  But as I said in May, we rely on NBA refs to make judgment calls throughout the game.  If the clock is stopped, and the refs know they have an issue, and they're standing there discussing it while millions of fans at home are watching the replay and know the correct answer - it's simply absurd to mandate that they're not allowed to use the tools available to fix the problem.  Here's a little rule of thumb that might come in handy - when the refs are going to discuss their complete inability to address the situation longer than the amount of time it would take to actually address the situation, that would be a time to use replay.

By the way, check out that item about the changes from the rules committee one more time.  How about that headline?  "Fines will be imposed for clear cases of flopping."  Anyone aware of any flopping fines doled out this season?  Did I just miss those?  Did the NBA suddenly become a flop-free zone because the players are so worried about Stu Jackson and his DVR?  Or did the rules committee make a completely empty gesture last May that no one had any intention of actually enforcing?