NBA launches video rulebook

NEW YORK -- Ever see a referee call a charge on a play you swore was a block? Or insist LeBron James took an extra step on his way to the rim?

If so, it's time to go to the videotape.

The NBA launched a video rulebook Thursday, a site where fans can watch clips of plays accompanied by explanations of the rules.

Stu Jackson, the league's executive vice president of basketball operations, said the rulebook, found at http://www.nba.com/videorulebook, would be "a place of reference for everyone with respect to how our games are officiated."

The site, which Jackson said was about 1½ years in the making and thought was the first of its kind, offers fans some of the same training officials get. Jackson said many of the approximately 150 plays included were previously used in referee development.

"It's very difficult unless you've played the game at a very high level, or better yet officiated the game at a very high level, to understand the complexity of our rules strictly by reading them," Jackson said during a conference call. "By adding a written explanation as well as video examples, it just gives the person time to gain more knowledge about the rules or context, and hopefully a little bit more data and therefore education."

The site features 11 sections, with Jackson figuring the ones covering block/charge and traveling would get the most usage because those were two of the hardest for officials on the court to call accurately. One clip shows James taking a third step, one more than allowed, after gathering the ball to end his dribble.

When a category is selected, a play or series of plays is listed. When one is picked, the video plays while a written interpretation of the rule appears on the side of the screen. The videos don't include volume, which in some instances likely prevented a broadcaster from hearing himself describe a call incorrectly.

Jackson said the league will try to keep the site current, updating it with additional plays that warrant explanation. Some of the videos might be familiar to fans, such as a couple of flagrant fouls from last season's playoffs.

The debut of the video rulebook comes at a time when NBA officiating is being watched closely and open to more criticism than usual. The league is currently using replacement referees while its regular staff is locked out during a labor dispute, but Jackson dismissed the notion that starting the site now was a bold move.

"Launching the video rulebook at this time made some sense just prior to the opening of the regular season, and doing so without anticipation that we'd be using replacement referees," Jackson said.

"Certainly officiating this game is very difficult, we all know that. And whether we're using replacement referees or our normal staff referees, they're going to make mistakes and that's true now and certainly will be true if the regular referees come back to work."

Jackson isn't worried about a call being made incorrectly in a game, then getting a rash of complaints from fans who knew it was wrong from watching a similar play on video.

"That's going to happen, we understand that," Jackson said, "but in our minds the best interest of the fans outweighs any potential miscues between what's called and what's on our video rulebook site."