That's one instant replay problem down, another truckload of issues to go.
The NBA will be adjusting its instant replay protocol next season, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman:
Just been informed the NBA WILL have a centralized replay center for next season's games. So these playoffs last games with on-site review.— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) May 18, 2014
Update: Tuesday, May 20 at 10:15 a.m. ET
The NBA has confirmed it will move to a centralized replay system next season, according to Brett Pollakoff of NBCSports.
--End of update--
Moving reviews off-site should help speed up the replay process, which can be painfully long and stop games for minutes at a time. The need to get calls right is paramount, but centralizing the entire process will ensure call-checking doesn't compromise the ebb and flow of the game.
But this is just one problem. The NBA has a pack of other instant replay quandaries to tackle, the need to expand its power being chief among them.
Blown calls, no-calls and questionable calls have dominated this year's NBA playoffs. Officials have gone to replay to ensure the accuracy of one call, only to see they missed another.
Consider Game 1 of the first-round clash between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. Late in the fourth quarter, the referees took to instant replay to confirm a pivotal call that awarded possession to the Warriors.
As Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan explained at the time, they found they were both right and wrong:
The ball had indeed gone off Paul. Reversal made, the Warriors regained possession.
There’s just one small problem: CP3 was clearly fouled prior to deflecting the ball out of bounds. Unfortunately, the letter of the law states an official cannot review anything beyond the question at hand.
Shackled by the letter of the law, the officials gave Golden State the ball, and the Warriors won. Soon after, the league admitted there should have been a foul called:
League says there should've been a foul called on Draymond Green late in the 4th quarter on the play resulting in a CP3 turnover.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 20, 2014
Such admissions are worthless. They do nothing except confirm mistakes that cannot be corrected. The league, along with the impacted team, can only hope said gaffes don't have long-term or, in this case, series-deciding repercussions.
Though the Clippers went on to win that series, a questionable call may have sealed their fate in the second round against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Will off-site instant replay fix all the NBA's issues with in-game reviews?
Late in Game 5, Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson attempted a layup that was contested by Los Angeles' Matt Barnes. No foul was called, and the ball sailed out of bounds. Upon further review, it looked like the ball had hit off Jackson, but officials gave possession to Oklahoma City.
Instead of being up 3-2, the Clippers suddenly found themselves down 3-2, facing elimination in Game 6. And they lost.
"It was our ball. Everybody saw it. It was our ball," a heated Doc Rivers said after Game 5, per Daily Thunder's Royce Young. "Let's take away replay. We got robbed because of that call."
Moving reviews to an off-site command center should help all of this, as Sports Illustrated's Chris Johnson observes:
The plan for an off-site command center is a good idea. Not only would this lessen the burden on the referees, but, most important, it would also reduce the number of botched calls — particularly ones that, as Rivers said, could be “series-defining” — and help speed up the end of games. Ideally, the off-site personnel also provide clear and coherent explanations of questionable calls. The one issued by referee Tony Brothers after Game 5 failed to cite language in the NBA rulebook that could have clarified why Oklahoma City retained possession on the play in question. Fans and media deserve better.
All good points—especially the last one. Fans and media deserve better. So do the players and coaches.
At this point, if they could, NBA would expand replay tomorrow. Another foul seen on replay that can't be called after.— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 15, 2014
Here's the problem: Changing the setting will only do so much. It will increase speed and perhaps ensure the right call, according to the rules, is made. But it won't mean anything significant unless it allows those in control to review more than just the question at hand, along with other questions replay isn't technically allowed to answer right now.
Until that changes—and there's a good chance it will—outcome-manipulating mistakes will remain a distinct and unwelcome possibility.