Winderman: Replay officials in NBA — an idea whose time has come

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The comment came during one of those informal pregame chats NBA referees have been conducting with the media over the past month.

“I think that replay is only going to be growing,” the veteran referee said.

He wasn’t commenting on whether it was a good thing or otherwise, but rather that it was an inevitable reality, based on what he had witnessed in the NFL and even during baseball’s ongoing postseason.

This season, the NBA will utilize late-game replay on calls involving the restricted area beneath the basket and goaltending, make replay mandatory for flagrant fouls, and continue to utilize replay on the timing of end-of-period shot release, 24-second violations and out-of-bounds situations.

That’s a lot of time to be huddling at the scorers’ table amid typical late-game mayhem, almost as silly as baseball’s umpires running off the field in midgame to review homerun calls.

The NFL, of course, is ahead of the game, with replay officials already on site, able to assist with business away from the mayhem. The NHL takes it a step further, with all replay issues handled out of their hockey-central office in Toronto.

In the NBA, though? Mayhem at midcourt, where players, coaches, fans can at least attempt to influence the decisions.

As it is, the NBA already has referee evaluators at every game. The support staff and support system already are in place.

And in most years, quality officials are forced to step aside because of the rigors of the game, making for the perfect pool of NBA “video officials.”

Unlike regular referees, such replay officials would not have to deal with the rigors of travel, simply assigned to a single city. While some might be concerned about home-team and hometown bias, as it is, those who monitor shot clocks work a team’s schedule throughout the regular season. At some point, integrity has to win out.

The NBA has proven forward-thinking with its increased use of replay. Even during the regular season, there are enough important calls to warrant the use of such technology, as well as prepare the systems for the playoffs.

The last thing a referee after 46 minutes of action on his feet needs is to stare into a small monitor courtside and begin requesting replay angles. Such work could be accomplished far more efficiently in a television truck, where multiple monitors are available.

A ruling could be rendered. An announcement could be made. And the referees on the court would be spared direct derision over the final verdict.

Upon further review, the NFL and NHL have decided that an extra pair of eyes makes sense on the game’s biggest calls. The NBA would be wise to follow suit.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.