The NBA owners have approved two new rules that will not strike your fancy but will quickly become so much a part of the culture that you won’t think twice about their existence.
The owners approved expanded use of replay by referees and indicated their approval for ads on uniforms.
I know, ads on uniforms sounds hideous and it mostly is, if you’ve seen some of the European ads that are blazed across the entire jersey. But the owners voted to move forward with the process, with plans to implement it for the 2013-14 season. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the final vote likely would come in September for a patch 2 inches by 2 inches just above the heart.
Though common in Europe, that kind of encroachment is largely unseen in the U.S. But think of it this way. How is that different than the Nike swoosh? And 2×2 is not much different than commemorative patches, like the NBA Finals logo that adorned the jerseys of the Thunder and the Heat last month. Truth is, by Game 2, we won’t even notice.
Of course, the slippery slope never is more slippery or slopey than in advertising, so eventually, Dunkin’ Donuts will be splashed across the Celtics’ green and Sonic’s logo will dominate the Thunder jerseys and not even look out of place, since the colors and artwork is similar. Like everything else, we’ll get used to it quickly. And who knows? Maybe it helps the Thunder sign Harden and Ibaka.
The expanded replay involves three extensions of the current policy, according to nba.com:
* Referees will call “flagrant” on the court and immediately use the courtside television screen to determine whether the foul was Flagrant 1, Flagrant 2 or actually a common foul. Previously, any changes were made following a review by the league office at least a day later.
* Referees will use replays in the final two minutes of overtime and all overtime to verify block/charge fouls that involve whether a player is in the restricted area.
* Referees will use replays in the final two minutes of regulation and all overtime to review goaltending calls. Non-calls will not be reviewed because that would require stopping play.
Only the flagrant foul change figures to extend the game. In the last two minutes, the game moves along at a snail’s pace anyway. The clock seems to stop after every possession. Perhaps eliminating a couple of timeouts would be a good counter. But the flagrant foul rule needed to be fixed. Referees absolutely need to know what happened, because a Flagrant 2, which results in automatic ejection from the game, is too obtrusive not to get right.
The block/charge rule is a good one for replay, because it’s almost always black-and-white. In or out. It’s clear to see. Goaltending is a little more subjective, even on replay, so that’s a good rule, though if the whistle blows quickly with a goaltending call, and the call is overturned, possession could become an issue.
But we’ve reached the point in sports society where the public demands virtual perfection on calls, especially at the end of games. So we might as well get it right. The problem will be when the final two minutes becomes the final five minutes, and the final five minutes become the last quarter, and the last quarter becomes the second half. Games will lose all pace and take forever to play.
The NBA’s problem is not length of games. It’s repeated periods of inactivity. Rulemakers must be aware of that slippery slope.