A source with one NBA team told me his team intentionally tries not to use the coach’s challenge on any personal foul calls. The reason: It’s the crew chief in the building who watches the review and makes the determination — not the replay center in New Jersey — and those referees are going to back their crew right or wrong. We’ve already seen a couple of instances this season where clearly wrong calls were left to stand by a crew chief.
The play in question came with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter of a one-point game: The Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was called for hitting New Orleans forward Brandon Ingram on the elbow as Ingram went up to shoot. KCP and the Lakers complained, so coach Frank Vogel challenged it.
During the break, LeBron James went and spoke to ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and that conversation was picked up by the mics, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports:
“That’s a bad call,” James said, which was picked up on the game broadcast. “When the ref makes that call, he don’t never want to be wrong. They’re never going to overturn it. Ever. Ever.”
LeBron was right, crew chief Zach Zarba let the call stand (officially the ruling is there was not enough clear evidence to overturn).
This is not just a LeBron thing, it’s a league-wide thing. Players and teams are not convinced this is a fair and balanced review.
There are serious doubts about whether the coach’s challenge will return next season — coaches to a man hate it — but if it does, the rule needs to be tweaked so that the guys in the official Replay Center in Secaucus make the call, not the crew chief on the floor. That would, at least, provide some perception of a chance at a fair call.