As time ticked away during the Toronto Raptors’ overtime loss to the Portland Trailblazers Tuesday night, there was the usual series of late-game delays: Fouls, timeouts, some TV ads.
But as the game stretched on (and on), there were also plenty of examples of something that’s become increasingly common in the NBA: Official reviews of video replay.
Not everyone’s a fan of the new order.
Former Raptors coach Butch Carter says reviews might be a necessary evil during the playoffs, or for a handful of close calls, but thinks the situation is getting a little bit out of control.
“I just don’t see why you have to have so many replays in the regular season. It would be better for everyone if they just made their call, and clearly in last night’s game, the crew screwed up a lot,” said Carter.
Before the season began, the NBA widened the number of situations where video replay — first introduced for the 2002-03 season — could be used. Among the situations that officials can now review with video replays include whether a collision was a charge or a block, whether a player had started his shooting motion before a foul was called and whether a foul was flagrant or not. There are now 15 situations that can lead to a video review.
There’s extra time to dwell on mistakes or missed opportunities during a video review, Carter says. For some players — and teams — that can be tough to take.
“Most of the time, the game keeps going, so you can have a short memory. When they bring video review into it, you’re standing there, and it requires this potential mistake to sit with you longer ... An extended video review does disrupt the flow of the game, there’s no question,” said Carter.
Boosting the number of interruptions is bad for another reason — NBA games are taking too long to play, Carter says. “They’ve already got a problem with the games being too long. They won’t admit that, but there is a problem with that.”
Still, if the number of situations for video review has expanded, the amount of time each one takes is shrinking — at least in theory. Almost at the same time as the expanded grounds for review, the NBA unveiled a brand spanking new video review centre in Secaucus, N.J.
The multimillion dollar centre — modelled partly on the NHL’s central review depot — has 94 TV monitors and dozens of staff. Rather than dealing with a local TV producer or getting someone to track down each shot one-by-one, on-court officials can simply get in touch with someone at the new centre, where every single game is monitored, and all shots are available almost instantly. According to the league, the new system has cut the time required for video reviews roughly in half.
In previous seasons, each video review added an average of one minute to a game’s total time, said Mike Beuoy, who runs the Inpredictable.com blog, devoted to crunching publicly available NBA numbers.
Still, despite a widespread perception that games have been getting longer and longer, they haven’t been changing all that much in recent seasons, Beuoy says.
“The average hasn’t really moved that much over the last few years,” said Beuoy, who’s an actuary in his day job. In 2012-13, the last season for which he did the numbers, regular season games took an average of 137 minutes, from tip-off to final buzzer. (In 2011-12 and 2010-11, it was 135 and 136, respectively).
While that’s up from 131 in 1995-96 — the first year he was able to calculate averages for — it’s down from 140 in 2009.
So why do people think games are getting longer? Beuoy believes fans might simply be getting less tolerant of any kind of delay, especially when watching from home.
“Live sports is really the last area where people can kind of get forced to watch TV ads, so I think people’s tolerance may be lower,” Beuoy.