NBA Ref Scott Foster Says Games in Empty Arenas Would Be 'Unique Experience'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2020

Referee Scott Foster signals during the second half of an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Toronto Raptors, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The NBA will surely play games without fans when and if it returns to finish the 2019-20 season following a hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and referee Scott Foster opened up about how "unique" officiating games in such a scenario will be for those in his profession.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press shared Foster's comments from an appearance on NBA TV:

"An immense amount of thought. I don't know who I'd be more worried for, the players or referees at this point. I know I don't want everything that we normally say to each other going out. But normally we're all in a professional manner out there. But it is going to be different. 

"There's going to be some assistant coaches that we haven't really heard from before sitting in the second row that we'll be able to hear now, so there's going to be some adjustment there. And then I think we're going to need to really talk about and analyze what is OK for the public to hear and how we're going to go about our business.

"But it's definitely going to be a different thing. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a really unique experience for the referees, players, coaches, everybody who's going to go through this."

There are a number of things the NBA has to work out before eventually returning to the court, but Foster's comments underscore something it may have to deal with from a broadcast perspective.

Without the crowd noise to drown out some of the trash talking on the floor and arguments with officials, there may have to be a minor delay in the otherwise live broadcasts so those watching on television are not subjected to offensive language or things they do not typically hear.

Referees who are accustomed to officiating games within the rhythm of arena noise will also have to make adjustments just like the players and coaches.

Foster's comments come as the NBA is working toward eventually finishing the season.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reported the league is potentially considering a World Cup-style group format for the first round of the playoffs, which could split the teams with the 20 best records into "tiers" to play two games against each of the other teams in the pools. The top two teams in each pool would then advance after playing eight games total into an eight-team second round.

Under such a scenario, those who advanced would play typical best-of-seven series for the rest of the playoffs.

Players Association executive director Michele Roberts told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne the "overwhelming" feeling among players is that "they really want to play."

Shelburne noted a resumption of the season, which has been suspended since March 11, would "most likely" take place in a centralized location at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida.