Before each playoff game, four referees enter their locker room. Only three emerge.
The fourth is in attendance in case of injury, a smart move by the league with so much at stake.
The greater issue, especially in light of some egregious officiating errors this postseason, is why not utilize that fourth pair of eyes?
No, not on the court. There’s already enough clutter there. But why not in the TV truck, where numerous angles are available both in real time and on replay. With almost every postseason game on network TV, the camerawork also is at playoff level.
We’re not talking about reviewing every call or even many of them.
But it would allow any replay situations to be handled faster and with a greater assortment of angles, and without coaches preening over shoulders or fans mucking up the process at the scorers’ table.
Beyond that, if there is an egregious error late in a game, and a coach is willing to burn a timeout (such would be the cost, similar to the NFL), then an instant second look in the TV truck would be possible, those same after-the-fact replays that offer such a striking indictment after the score is final.
Yes, it would only be for the postseason, because it is the only time four officials are present, by rule, in the building. But it’s not as if there isn’t precedent. The NHL changes its overtime rules for the Stanley Cup playoffs, playing overtime the right way. And the NFL now has different overtime rules for its postseason.
Plus, by forcing coaches to keep a timeout in their pockets, it might lead to fewer stoppages along the way.
The NBA has strict standards of what can be reviewed and what can’t.
But the playoffs mean more, which means individual plays mean more.
This isn’t about nitpicking about block-charge. But what if the referee in the TV truck can get a definitive angle that shows the defender in the restricted area on a bang-bang final-seconds play?
To some, the argument is that it would leave much of the process to be determined by the quality of the television production.
As it is, TV dominates the process anyway, be it with the scheduling, the added timeouts, the lengths of the games.
Simply put, the NBA has decided that an extra referee at playoff games is not a luxury, but rather a necessity.
So should be getting the calls right, especially with the added means to do so.