April 22, 2011
For the most part, the NBA has embraced the role that technology can play in improving referee decisions. Officials can now stop the game to check whether a shot is worth two points or three, the correct amount of time left on the clock, and who touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. It doesn't slow the game down too much, and they almost always get the calls right.
To the league's credit, it has gradually brought in new situations for replay instead of allowing all plays to be reviewed in one fell swoop. As David Stern told CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, there will likely be even more allowances for replay in the future. In fact, there may be an NFL-like challenge-based system soon:
"Eventually, you may have someone sitting at a desk rather than having a Talmudic discussion of three referees every time there's a disputed play," Stern said. "We might have one person whose job it is to keep the headphones on and always watch. And you might let a coach throw the flag in the last two minutes. We're striving for accuracy. … We have to find a way to speed the game up, and to get it right. That's the most important thing."
As Kurt Helin noted at ProBasketballTalk, Ira Winderman wrote a piece earlier this week calling for a similar system. If the league can do this in a streamlined fashion without allowing for reviews of judgment calls like fouls, it's a good decision. It's important for the refs to get calls as right as possible, so long as they can do so without slowing down the game.
Whenever increased replay gets brought up, a faction of fans argues that it will take the human element out of the game. While that's true in some cases, a challenge-based system actually introduces more of a human element by requiring coaches to exercise their judgment on when to challenge a call. On top of that, the review official then has to decide if the available camera angles provide indisputable evidence that a call can be overturned. The entire operation deals with issues of human perception and judgment. It is, in practice, a veritable smorgasbord of "the human element."
So, yes, I support this decision wholeheartedly if it can be done in a smooth fashion. Getting calls right matters, and a challenge-based system does so in a fascinatingly human way.