OAKLAND — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to see improvement in the NBA’s officiating.
Just probably not the changes many of you want to see.
Thursday night he defended the NBA’s officiating, the Two Minute Reports, and said he still hopes to push through a change to end Hack-a-Shaq.
“I’d say largely what these Last Two-Minute Reports are showing is that the referees get it right about 90 percent of the time,” Silver said in a press conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals tipped off from Oracle. “Now, from a fan standpoint, the other side of the coin is so, in other words, they’re getting it wrong one out of 10 calls? And I accept that.
“So to your ultimate question, how do I feel about the officiating? My feeling is I’d like that to be 100%. I’d love to get zero errors. I don’t think we’re ever going to be there.”
Because it’s never going to be there so long as humans are involved — and fans of opposing teams are always going to see close calls differently — what Silver continues to preach is transparency.
“We’re in the second year of our Last Two-Minute Reports, and I still remain strongly behind them,” Silver said. “Now, I understand the criticism from some of the teams that, ‘What’s the point? Why are you telling the world that this call was decided incorrectly? May have gone in our favor, may not have. Nothing can be done about it after the fact.’
“My view, first of all, in terms of building confidence in the public, they want to see consistency. So they want to understand if we call something a foul, why we called it a foul, and we often give explanations for why we believe something was a foul, whether it was correctly called or incorrectly called. So it’s our hope that you take the Last Two-Minute Reports together with using a certain amount of replay that we’re building to build trust and integrity in the league.”
How much trust the league can build in a social media world is up for debate. Silver, as is his nature, is open to discussing just about anything.
“I had a team come in the other day and say we should look at a fourth official,” Silver said. “And that goes to the core of your question. Maybe the game is so fundamentally different now that we maybe do need to look at a fourth official. So that’s something maybe through our Development League or Summer Leagues that we’ll take a fresh look at.”
That the league is talking about these things now — and putting out the officiating reports — is an improvement over the Soviet-style denial and lack of information that had been the NBA’s modus operandi for many years. More information is a good thing, even if reasonable people can disagree about how a call was seen.
Silver wants to see some officiating and rule changes. That starts with hack-a-Shaq.
“I think you all know it is my hope that we are not far away from some reform,” Silver said. “This is an issue where I’m hoping we can strike some sort of a compromise. I mean, there is no doubt that there are particular teams, particular owners who have spoken out against any change whatsoever. And I also recognize from a competitive standpoint that largely three teams will be the beneficiary of a rule change. There’s three players in particular, and everyone knows who I’m talking about, and whatever team they’re on, if they’re going to play a lot of minutes and they’re poor free throw shooters, the ability to hack them away from the ball creates an advantage for the other team….
“What we’ve seen even since last year is a two and a half times increase off last year of the number of these off-ball fouls, away-from-the-ball fouls, intentional fouls. Looking back just even at the last five years, it’s now up 16 times from five years ago.”
It has become a common strategy, and it is something both fans and the NBA’s broadcasters do not like or want. You know, the broadcasters about to start paying a lot more money for the rights to show NBA games.
“I’ve said it before, for example, when Hack-a-Shaq has done something like more than roughly ten times a game, it adds about 15 minutes to the length of the game,” Silver said. “Not only is that something that is bad for our network partners, but for all of the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it. You know, so there may be a compromise in there where we can cut it down significantly.”
The other officiating change will be a new enforcement on flailing, something that has become a hot topic in the playoffs ever since Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the nether regions in the Western Conference Finals.
“So in terms of the flailing, and we’re seeing a lot more late kicks and, frankly, players flailing their arms as well, it’s clear what they’re doing. They’re trying to sell calls. They’re trying to make contact,” Silver said. “They’re trying to demonstrate that they’re getting fouled on particular plays. It’s not something new in the league, but as we track it, it’s becoming more prevalent….
“It’s not something we want to see. In terms of flagrant fouls and potential suspensions, one of the things we look at is the intent of the players. Obviously it’s very difficult to discern intent. We want to find a way to discourage players from flailing….
“We’ve been talking about it throughout the season. Obviously (there is) a very controversial play that you just mentioned, and it’s on the agenda for the Competition Committee when we meet this summer.”
The competition committee is going to be very busy this summer.