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What will officials focus on next season? Delay of game, players going out of bounds

Sep 27, 2013, 5:45 PM EDT

NBA Instant replay review referee Getty Images

Every year the NBA season starts with the league instructing the referees to focus on something new. It’s usually image related.

So what’s the random focus going to be this year? Ken Berger at gave us a preview — delay of game after made baskets and players standing out of bounds.

As far as points of emphasis, the one that will come into play the most is delay-of-game violations when offensive players redirect the ball (i.e. toss it to the ref or bounce it out of bounds) after a made basket. League officials say it happened 214 times during the playoffs last season. Blowing the whistle on such shenanigans will speed up the game. Another good one: A team will lose possession if an offensive player goes out of bounds and does not return to the court immediately (with exceptions, of course, for injury and other circumstances that can’t be avoided.) Seems like a small thing, but this is a tactic that the Denver Nuggets started using a couple of years ago to further spread out the floor and confuse the defense. Last season, league officials say 11 teams used the tactic.

While it may seem like bouncing the ball to the ref is the polite thing to do, it’s an intentional tactic to give the defense another second or two to get back. Teams used it against teams that even liked to run after makes.

There will be some increased replay use as well this year, but I like the moves because it gives the referees more discretion to make the right play.

For example, they can still only review block/charge calls in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, but now they can reverse the charge call if the player is outside the restricted area. They can also review now to see if a foul called off the ball happened before a shooter started his motion (this makes sense, if you are calling a foul off the ball you are not watching the shooter by definition).

What we will not see is the one thing I hope the league gets to soon — centralized replays. The NHL does this, having dispassionate officials in the league office look at the review and make the call, leaving the referees on the ice out of the process. The technology exists and it can lead to more consistent calls, or it should.

While we wait for that, look for referees to be all over the delay of game and out of bounds calls for the first couple months of the season, then the attention on the issue will fade away. That’s another NBA tradition.

  1. Anoesis - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Players on the team that just made a basket messing with the ball has always bugged the crap out of me. It’s too bad the league feels the need to suddenly address this issue instead of simply reminding refs to call it. Like ten years ago.

    Once the ball goes through the hoop you have no right to touch it, as possession has changed hands. I’ll believe this is a genuine attempt by the officials the first time they blow the whistle on a player dunking who hangs just long enough on the rim to knock the ball away as it clears the net.

  2. rickyspanish - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    What will officials focus on next season?

    I was hoping you were going to say objectivity and consistency. Dare to dream I suppose.

  3. papichulo55 - Sep 27, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    All are good changes. They should also call more Carries/Palming. Way too many guys that make Cousy look pedestrian, and I just won’t/cant accept that.

    • antistratfordian - Sep 27, 2013 at 10:30 PM

      “Way too many guys that make Cousy look pedestrian”

      Hey, you said it.

  4. hildezero - Sep 27, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    I agree with Anoesis.

  5. papichulo55 - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Yeah, I know how things work. It’s not a violation/carry until the Refs call it. Look at the rulebook definition. They all carry the ball, per those rules. The League should either change the rules to match the today’s officiating, or enforce the rules. If you played ball in the Sixties, you would understand….

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