ESPN's Chris Sheridan wrote up a memo he'd love to see from the desk of NBA Commissioner David Stern:
To: All NBA owners, players, referees and fans.
From: Commissioner David Stern
Re: Referees, instant replay, and common sense
Effective immediately, the following rule change has been adopted by the NBA Board of Governors:
Referees may now use instant replay to review any call or non-call they want to take another look at, at their discretion.
That's it. That's the new rule.
Pretty simple, eh?
Well, we've been telling you for years now that our referees are the best, any we have decided to empower them to unleash their powers of common sense. If they want to take another look, they can, whenever they want, because we have unintentionally but unfortunately placed arbitrary limitations on when and whether referees can go to the replay monitor, and we're going to nip this one in the bud.
Like a lot of you, it has been infuriating and excruciating for me over the course of this season to watch referees review whether a certain shot was a 3-pointer or a 2-pointer any time they want, then use the replay rule as a crutch when things go wrong at the end of a game.
Example A: Had the referees reviewed Michael Finley's game-deciding shot Sunday night with the aid of a replay in which audio and video were synchronized, they could have determined on the spot that the shot shouldn't have counted. They would have gotten it right, which is the objective here, and I wouldn't have had to go on a conference call with refereeing czar Ron Johnson pleading with the national media for sympathy for the official who spent a sleepless night agonizing over his blown call.
Example B: Had the referees listened to the New Orleans timekeeper two weeks ago in another disputed ending involving the Spurs, rather than disregarding the error he pointed out (which favored San Antonio, it should be noted) by saying they couldn't do anything about the problem because replay rules don't allow for it, the proper amount of time would have been placed on the clock for the final possession. Again, it was a case where common sense was trumped by a rules interpretation that technically was correct but which violated the ultimate goal, which is to always get the call correct.
Remember the fiasco in the Orlando-Detroit playoff series last season when the clock inadvertently stopped and the Pistons scored a 3-pointer that shouldn't have counted? Remember how Steve Javie and his crew had to guesstimate whether the shot should have counted when everyone watching at home could see that it shouldn't have? Well, Javie is one of our best refs, and Javie would have gotten that one right if we had allowed him to use common sense along with all the technical tools at his disposal. The new rule should fix problems like that one.
On a related note, we're also ditching the rule that requires referees to review every single shot that goes through the hoop at the buzzer. Many of these shots clearly left the shooters' hand before time expired, yet we've made our officials look like fools by requiring them to review the obvious and go to the monitor on every single one. It's a stupid rule, and we're ditching stupidity for the '09 playoffs.
These simplified rules changes should make the disasters of the past 22 months a thing of the past, and hopefully we can return to the good old days when the strict enforement of the leaving-the-bench rule will be the only thing we can justifiably be criticized for.
Enjoy the playoffs.
(Sheridan notes Commissioner Stern referred to himself as "Easy Dave" during NBA labor talks in the mid-1990s.)