Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Instant Replay in NBA?

On Wednesday the NBA told the world: "yes our referees messed up, a foul should have been called". This was in reference to Brent Barry's potential game-winning shot against the Lakers a few nights ago. Barry was bumped into by Lakers guard Derek Fisher, but no call was made, game over. While I'm not a big fan of the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA's "admitted mistake" seems a bit like a slap in the Spurs' faces. The foul could have given San Antonio the win and tied up the series, rather than putting the world champs into a bigger hole. The game can't be a do-over like this past season's Atlanta Hawks vs Miami Heat contest, so it seems strange the NBA would just admit a mistake and move on without further mention. The league should start meeting about the concept of better instant replay system, especially in the late stages of a game, and especially in playoff contests.

Instant replay may need to come into heavier use in all 4 of the major sports. It currently is used moderately well in the NFL, as coaches can issue challenges and there's a penalty should the challenge not be "overturned". In MLB they are having recent issues where the umpires can't call homeruns correctly. And now in the NBA we see how a last second foul situation really could have change the outcome of an important playoff game. If Spurs head coach Greg Popovich had the ability to challenge that call, most likely we would have seen the Spurs victorious. In addition to all this, a coach's ability to coach and challenge major calls should be part of the game. Strategy is key to winning, as are the calls the referees make sometimes.

The NBA should seriously consider instant replay, especially in playoff situations. While they currenty use them on shots to determine if a shot left a player's hands before the red light, they also should use them with foul situations, even if its just in the 4th quarter, or last 2 minutes of a game. The NFL's challenge situation seems appropriate, they could assess a timeout to a coach who's challenge isn't overturned. Or if there are no timeouts a technical foul, to make sure coaches really are careful with the challenges. For now the refs will continue to use their discretion, but in the wake of the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal, instant reply can only strengthen the product and ensure the fans and teams they get fair game outcomes.

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