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Winderman: Replay officials in NBA — an idea whose time has come

Oct 23, 2012, 4:42 PM EDT

NBA referees instant replay Getty Images

The comment came during one of those informal pregame chats NBA referees have been conducting with the media over the past month.

“I think that replay is only going to be growing,” the veteran referee said.

He wasn’t commenting on whether it was a good thing or otherwise, but rather that it was an inevitable reality, based on what he had witnessed in the NFL and even during baseball’s ongoing postseason.

This season, the NBA will utilize late-game replay on calls involving the restricted area beneath the basket and goaltending, make replay mandatory for flagrant fouls, and continue to utilize replay on the timing of end-of-period shot release, 24-second violations and out-of-bounds situations.

That’s a lot of time to be huddling at the scorers’ table amid typical late-game mayhem, almost as silly as baseball’s umpires running off the field in midgame to review homerun calls.

The NFL, of course, is ahead of the game, with replay officials already on site, able to assist with business away from the mayhem. The NHL takes it a step further, with all replay issues handled out of their hockey-central office in Toronto.

In the NBA, though? Mayhem at midcourt, where players, coaches, fans can at least attempt to influence the decisions.

As it is, the NBA already has referee evaluators at every game. The support staff and support system already are in place.

And in most years, quality officials are forced to step aside because of the rigors of the game, making for the perfect pool of NBA “video officials.”

Unlike regular referees, such replay officials would not have to deal with the rigors of travel, simply assigned to a single city. While some might be concerned about home-team and hometown bias, as it is, those who monitor shot clocks work a team’s schedule throughout the regular season. At some point, integrity has to win out.

The NBA has proven forward-thinking with its increased use of replay. Even during the regular season, there are enough important calls to warrant the use of such technology, as well as prepare the systems for the playoffs.

The last thing a referee after 46 minutes of action on his feet needs is to stare into a small monitor courtside and begin requesting replay angles. Such work could be accomplished far more efficiently in a television truck, where multiple monitors are available.

A ruling could be rendered. An announcement could be made. And the referees on the court would be spared direct derision over the final verdict.

Upon further review, the NFL and NHL have decided that an extra pair of eyes makes sense on the game’s biggest calls. The NBA would be wise to follow suit.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

  1. law1orde - Oct 23, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    No kidding! It is the time for this improvement as stated in the story.

  2. herkulease - Oct 23, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    Uhh in the NFL the replay booth official only signals to the on field Ref that they need to review the play. That’s about it. And their roles are rather limited, TDs, turnovers and under 2minutes before half, end of game and overtime.

    the field Ref still walks over to the monitor, watches and makes the decision. If the replay booth official made the decision to overturn or let stand, you would think the NFL wouldn’t have let the Packers/Seahawks MNF debacle occur. the Replay Booth Official was an NFL guy not a ref.

    What you’re suggesting is more like NCAA. The booth replay person who’s onsite does the ruling.

  3. ndnut - Oct 23, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    The Packers/Seahawks call was inside 2 minutes and the booth official did make the call. Otherwise it was a good comment.

  4. staff2cj - Oct 24, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Hold refs accountable! When obvious calls are miss, they should be suspended. Otherwise, I suspect the games are fixed.

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