The NBA is experimenting with another possible rule change at summer league this year.
Unfortunately, following the first two games of the NBA Finals, much of the rhetoric surrounding them has dealt with the officiating. Most notably, the decision to overturn a charge on Kevin Durant, making it a block on LeBron James, in the final minute of Game 1 has confused and upset many, leading to questions about whether such decisions should be allowed, and if they should, how to standardize them so there is less reason to complain.
The NBA has attempted to offer transparency through the utilization of the Last Two Minute Report, which features the league office commenting on the correctness of the referee’s calls, but this has often caused as much frustration among fans as relief.
It now appears that one solution being considered is to take the NFL’s lead and allow coaches the use of a challenge. This would allow coaches to contest the referee’s decision on certain plays, potentially leading to the changing of the initial call. At this current point, it is merely experimentation that is expected to happen during Summer League — the details of which have not yet been disclosed.
This summer, there will be three summer leagues, with Utah and Sacramento featuring brief leagues from July 2-5. Beginning on July 6, though, all thirty teams will convene in Las Vegas for the marquee event, running through July 17. It is not currently clear if the opportunity for coaches to challenge will be featured at all three leagues, in all games, or on a more selective basis.
There is certainly reason to quibble with the NBA’s replay rules. They often seem arbitrary and ill-conceived, but it nevertheless seems silly to see this as evidence of malice or conspiracy. Rather, it is more likely that the league, despite being years into the use of replay, is still trying to figure out how to best utilize it. The ultimate concern must remain getting the final call correct, but the route to doing so is often so circuitous and time consuming that fans often experience more annoyance than relief by the time the process is complete.
The idea of a challenge flag, then, seems like a band-aid that fails to address the underlying issue — that of the replay infrastructure as a whole. Instead, of issuing challenges to coaches, which in actuality, would likely only further slow down play and make the process of both refereeing and watching games more confusing, the NBA should reexamine replay as a whole, with the aim of making it a cleaner and more intuitive process.