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: Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer no longer considering Suns job

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There’s been a lot of talk as the coaching carousel ramps up, long before the NBA season is even over. Now, we know one coach won’t be heading to the Phoenix Suns: Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer.

Budenholzer was reportedly among one of the candidates for the Suns job, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi the Hawks coach has decided not to pursue the position after being given the opportunity to do so.

The Suns coaching search still includes current interim coach Jay Triano and former Memphis Grizzlies head man David Fizdale.

Via ESPN:

Budenholzer met with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver early this week, but there was never traction on reaching a contract agreement as the week wore on, league sources said.

As the Suns kept interviewing candidates — including David Fizdale and interim coach Jay Triano — Budenholzer informed the Suns on Thursday that he would no longer be a candidate for the job, sources said.

Phoenix fired Earl Watson just three games into the season. Budenholzer had a hefty resume to consider — he won 60 games in Atlanta in 2014-15, heading to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Suns need someone to guide their young star in Devin Booker. Who they choose will influence the direction of their franchise for longer than the next coach may even be around.

Warriors beat Spurs in glum Game 3

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The Spurs were playing with heavy hearts following the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin. Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston appeared to injure their left ankles on back-to-back plays late.

Everyone seemed ready for the Warriors’ 110-97 Game 3 win Thursday to end well before it did.

Soon enough, the first-round series will. Golden State is up 3-0, and all 127 teams to win the first three games of a best-of-seven series won it – most of them via sweep. Game 4 is Saturday in San Antonio.

There’s hope neither Durant’s nor Livingston’s injury is serious. Durant walked off on his own, though gingerly. Livingston shot his free throws before exiting.

Durant (26 points) and Klay Thompson (19 points) have carried the Warriors’ offense with Stephen Curry sidelined by his own injury. If Durant isn’t at full strength for Game 4, Golden State could really struggle to score.

But it still might not matter, as the Spurs are overmatched against the Warriors’ dialed-in defense. Draymond Green (10 points, seven assists, six rebounds, four blocks and two steals) led tonight’s effort.

After two losses in Oakland to start the series, returning to San Antonio didn’t do much for the Spurs, who were 33-8 at home and 14-27 on the road this season – the NBA’s largest home-road disparity in a half decade. It’s just had to see San Antonio – whether Popovich returns or Ettore Messina remains acting coach – finding enough sources of offense.

Pelicans move one game away from sweep after bashing Blazers in Game 3

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But for a moment, the Portland Trail Blazers felt as though they could turn the series. For half a quarter, the Blazers had hope. Then, Nikola Mirotic dropped a career-high 30 points, Anthony Davis added a double-double of 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans moved one game away from completing a sweep of the third seed after a big win on Thursday night, 119-102.

Under the guidance of Mirotic, the Pelicans unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers starting midway through the first quarter. The game was close to being a contest, but Jrue Holiday and Mirotic started to pour it in after being uncorked, with New Orleans taking a 16-point lead going into the second period.

Running up and down the court in a panic, Portland looked nervous in the spotlight. The Blazers racked up 12 turnovers by halftime, all while rattling 3-pointers off the back iron. Portland rushed its offense in the face of unlikely success by the Pelicans, who continued to rain down from deep. New Orleans hit four big shots in the final 1:47 of the half, including three from beyond-the-arc.

Never one to back down, Blazers star Damian Lillard tried to force the issue. He would finish with 20 points on 5-of-14 shooting, but most evidentiary of his night was Lillard lobbing up a wild 28-footer with 24 seconds left in the half as he tried to answer a gutshot 3-pointer from E'Twaun Moore from a moment before. It didn’t work, and the Pelicans took commanding 64-45 lead to start the third quarter.

So went the story of the rest of the game, as Portland couldn’t fully tamp down the New Orleans offensive attack for longer than a few minutes at a time. Even after one 10-0 run for the Blazers in the third, the Pelicans ended it in the most deflating way possible — a wide open dunk for Mirotic on a cut after Portland’s defense fell asleep.

It was an electric atmosphere at Smoothie King, and the sellout crowd that gave us a glimpse of what kind of homecourt advantage the Pelicans could have in the second round. The New Orleans fans were in a back-and-forth with the players, with Smoothie King working to such a fever pitch it felt as though every shot hoisted by the team in red and gold was destined for the nylon.

Demoralized, Portland battled — flailed, really — but the Blazers couldn’t make up any ground as the momentum continued for New Orleans. Finally Blazers coach Terry Stotts relented and waived the white flag for Portland with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter as he subbed in his bench.

Even with a 49-win season under its belt, the questions surrounding the Blazers become more serious. The team that had a 13-game win streak this season now will face rumblings about whether Stotts will remain with the team. An exit for Stotts would be unwise for Portland — he did wonders with a team that didn’t play up to its potential most of the year — but it’s not out of the ordinary for a team looking to break through to look elsewhere, especially after Lillard’s meeting with owner Paul Allen.

Although their work isn’t done yet, New Orleans looks as though it’s a team to be feared in the playoffs. What it needs to do is concentrate on sweeping the Blazers, not only to give themselves confidence heading into the second round but to show their second-round opponent (likely the Warriors) that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

How Porltand can counter in the deciding Game 4 isn’t clear. The Pelicans have looked like the better team for nearly every quarter of the series, and the Blazers clearly don’t have an answer for them on either side of the ball.

Happy New Orleans fans will pack Smoothie King on Saturday for Game 4 at 2:00 PM PST in Louisiana. Davis will look to win his first playoff series, and Portland will try to avoid their most embarrassing sweep since they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference Finals.

Steve Kerr, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili celebrate the life of Erin Popovich (VIDEO)

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The NBA community has been effuse in their thoughts and condolences to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich over the past 24 hours. Erin Popovich, 67, passed away on April 18, leaving behind her husband, Gregg.

Many were taken aback at the news, including players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, both of whom were emotional when they first heard the news of Erin’s passing.

Gregg Popovich was not with the team to coach them in their Thursday night matchup against the Golden State Warriors, as Ettore Messina took the reins for Game 3.

Meanwhile, those close to the Popoviches spoke about Erin, her influence on Gregg, and how much both mean to them. Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich in San Antonio for four seasons, told reporters that Erin was, “The sort of balance that Pop needed.”

Current Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker also voiced their support for the Popovich family.

Via Twitter:

Here’s hoping Popovich finds some solace in the support he’s received over the past day.