NBA instant replay: Do we need more of it? A PBT roundtable discussion

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Garnett_referee.jpgThe star of the NBA finals Game 3 — just after Derek Fisher but ahead of Brian Scalabrine — was instant replay. The officials went to it constantly down the stretch of a close game. Good, because they got the calls right, sort of; or bad because it disrupted the flow of the game?

We’ve decided to go Algonquin Round Table to hash this one out. Myself, Matt Moore (the PBT weekend editor and a guy who is everywhere) and Rob Mahoney (also here and everywhere) discuss.

Kurt Helin: It looked like an NFL game out there late in Game 3. I was expecting Doc Rivers to throw the red flag on the court at one point. No doubt it messes with the flow of the game some, but this proved to me I want more replay. Lets get the calls right.

I say give the coaches two challenges to use per game outside of the last two minutes, and have the refs overturn some more stuff. What matters is getting it right. This isn’t baseball.

Matt Moore: I suppose if we’re going to go that route we’re going to have to make one expansion with a limitation. You can challenge the overall result of the play, not just a specific element, and it’s got to be done at a stopped ball, no more than one possession removed from the play in question.

An example? Doc challenging out on Rondo shouldn’t negate the fact that Rondo was fouled. The question then is if you attribute the foul to him. We’re getting in murky water there, though. A retroactive foul is such a huge deal because so many go on that aren’t called (a zillion in an average Boston game and a googleplex whenever Andrew Bynum enters the arena).

My big thing is, man, we’ve got to do better about getting the call right the first time. Four blatant misses down the stretch. This after I thought Games 1 and 2 weren’t so bad.

Rob Mahoney: The league could definitely use more replay, but how is ‘challeng[ing] the overall result of the play’ a limitation? That’s opening up a huge can of worms, in my opinion, and you cut right to the heart of it, Moore.

Why should the challenging team really be penalized with an additional foul that wasn’t called by the referees in the first place?

As you mentioned, Matt, there are fouls going on during every possession, from holds, to hand-checks, to the pleasantries exchanged by players fighting for post position. A referee, if so inclined, could choose to end every single replay review by calling a foul that wasn’t seen the first time around, and that’s game-changing in the worst way. Circumventing that requires the challenging of specific calls. It has to be “this out of bounds call needs to be reviewed,” or “this blocking foul needs to be reviewed, it was a charge.” It’s not so easy to do that in every circumstance, but giving referees a remote control and free rein to revisit all of the calls they didn’t make could be damning.

Where that line should be though, I’m not sure. Should foul calls even be reviewable? Or maybe only those that are actually called, rather than challenging a no-call? Technical fouls? Violations only? I’m not sure there’s a good answer.

Kurt Helin: I don’t think you can open up the Pandora’s Box of foul’s that were not called the first time. Even though you end up with plays like that out of bounds off Lamar Odom where it went out off him because of an uncalled foul on Rondo. That is the price. But there have to be definitive lines of what can and can’t be reviewed. Charge/block is too subjective.

But what about a standard shooting foul? If Ray Allen goes up for a three and Derek Fisher is late closing out on him and is called for a foul, can you review if he did get him? To me that kind of thing can’t be part of it, because it can be about camera angles, or how do you determine how much body contact there was? Especially with a foul in a scrum under the basket. So many foul calls are made in the shades of gray.

Moore is hits the nail with getting calls right the first time, and with that comes the old consistency argument. From ref to ref in the same game what is a foul on one end is not on the other. Touch fouls get called, guys knocked down and no whistle. Was there a clear line in Game 3 of what was and was not a foul? Paul Pierce sure couldn’t find it.

Matt Moore: I think perhaps one way to solve it is this. If after review, a conflicting piece of evidence in the play would negate the reversal, the play stands as called. So basically, last night, Rondo’s foul negates the incorrect call on the out of bounds, because given all the information, there is inconclusive evidence to overturn the call. Rondo doesn’t benefit from the foul, and Lamar doesn’t get screwed.

Reviewing the contact would be interesting, but that’s one where I’d almost say you can only challenge ONE foul call per game. That would make it interesting. If you save it, and you KNOW your guy didn’t foul, you could challenge. Also makes you wonder if you could challenge that you DID foul, re: Denver-Dallas last year with Antoine Wright.

I still think if we’re talking individual plays, we’re not falling victim to any specific problems more than the NFL. So while there could be a blatant foul going on off-ball. I’d recommend that only on-ball action can be reviewed.

Rob Mahoney: The one thing I think we’re ignoring is how such reviews affect the game’s natural momentum. That matters in terms of how we view the game, but even more importantly, how the game progresses.

Would challenges require the use of a timeout? Last night we saw a Doc Rivers timeout turn into a review that benefited the Lakers, which is an interesting twist. I think requiring teams to use timeouts to challenge plays would at least limit the disruptions in the flow of the game, both in terms of the viewing experience and each team’s ability to halt the other’s momentum. Otherwise, being able to challenge at any dead-ball situation could be a powerful weapon in the hands of any team, especially those on the road.

Can you imagine if a team could not only stop play during an opponent’s big run, but also overturn a call that could act as a catalyst for their own? That’s huge. There needs to be some kind of cost for teams to force reviews, should they be unsuccessful, and timeouts could be the best way to go.  

Kurt Helin: What would concern me is what we saw for a while in the NFL — gun shy refs. They seemed hesitant because of the potential overrule. NBA refs have enough problems without starting to second-guess themselves on top of it.

For that reason, got to just keep this limited — two (Matt says one, I could live with that) challenges outside the last two minutes of the half, and only challenge on certain specific calls. Only on-the-ball fouls.

Cool, now that the three of us solved the replay issue, let’s just fix the CBA….

Report: Raptors to begin contract extension talks with coach Dwane Casey

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors looks on from the sideline in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Entering the season, Dwane Casey’s seat was a little warm. He was not hired by the GM now in charge, and last season the Raptors had taken a step back, especially defensively.

After Toronto just ended the greatest season in franchise history — 56 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals — Casey’s job is safe. In fact, the Raptors want to make sure he sticks around a while longer, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

The Raptors and coach Dwane Casey are expected to soon begin talks on a contract extension, league sources said Friday night after Toronto’s season ended with a 113-87 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Casey has one season left on his current contract at the Raptors’ option for $4 million next season.

Both sides want to get a deal done, which usually means things happen quickly.

This is a smart move by the Raptors, clearly Casey connects with this team and knows how to get the most out of them, and he adapted well in the playoffs looking for rosters and lineups that worked. He’s the right coach for this team.

Pelicans’ rookie guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has died at age 23

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 04:  Bryce Dejean-Jones #31 of the New Orleans Pelicans drives to the basket during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Smoothie King Center on February 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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This is a sad and stunning development.

Bryce Dejean-Jones, the rookie guard of the New Orleans Pelicans, has died, the Dallas, Texas, County Coroner has confirmed to NBC Sports. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune broke the news.

Dejean-Jones was just 23.

“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans Organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones,” the Pelicans’ organization said in a statement. “We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”

The coroner’s office would not give a cause of death, but Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had the tragic detail.

The account of him being shot has been confirmed by multiple sources, including the Dallas Police Department, which released an incident report to the Dallas Morning News. Here is that report:

“On May 28, 2016, at approximately 3:20 a.m., Dallas officers responded to the 2500 block of Bennett Avenue regarding a shooting. Upon arrival officers found one individual had been shot. The resident of the apartment reported that an individual had kicked open the front door and entered his apartment. The resident, who was asleep in the bedroom, heard the individual enter and retrieved a handgun. He stated he called out to the individual, but was not answered. As the individual kicked the bedroom door, the resident fired his gun. The individual left the apartment and collapsed in the breezeway. The individual was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. This offense is documented on case number 127685-2016 and Dallas Police Homicide is conducting an investigation.”

As someone who spent years as a crime and police reporter, let’s just say come at these initial police reports of incidents — and what people tell the police — with a critical eye.

Understandably, players who knew Dejean-Jones are greiving.

Dejean-Jones was undrafted out of Iowa State, he was picked up on a 10-day contract by New Orleans this season, but the rash of injuries the Pelicans suffered pushed him into a starting role for 11 games. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and to his credit did shoot 37.5 percent from three. On Feb. 19 he took a hard fall and fractured his wrist, which eventually required surgery and ended his season. He was a guy known for attitude problems at the start of his college career at USC the UNLV, but had seemed to mature and his game had as well. He looked like someone who could stick as a reserve guard in the NBA.

Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.

LeBron James first player to reach six straight finals in 50 years

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It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.

It speaks to an amazing durability.

It speaks to leadership.

LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.

LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.

He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.

The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.

Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”

I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:

All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).

What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.

Warriors/Thunder Game 6: Four things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to close out series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors react in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.

1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.

I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?

2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint?
In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.

Tied to Bogut’s play…

3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.

One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.

4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self.
I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.

Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.