The NBA said they will speed up the game, and the replays were a point of emphasis coming into this season. Well, I’m just going to get straight into it: THE INSTANT REPLAYS SUCKS. It sucks so bad and is only getting worse. I have never met one fan who enjoys sitting down and watching three referees spend a good five minutes - stopping all the momentum of the game - just to figure out if an inconsequential three was actually a two or not. They either dislike it, hate it, or automatically flip the stream. Just look at the first game of the preseason.
Lakers vs Nets was shaping to be a great game. Cameron Thomas out of LSU was heating up in the third quarter, but then Dwight Howard hit Day’Ron Sharpe with a soft elbow as he was boxing him out. 10 MINUTES AND 55 SECONDS before play resumed again! Check for yourself on the NBA League Pass app, from 1:20:55 to 1:31:10. How does it take 10 MINUTES AND 55 SECONDS for two referees to review the play, come up with their decision and start the play again? To be absolutely fair, a third referee was dealing with Howard as he probably said a magic word leading to a tech foul, but this was in the third quarter of a preseason game!
Do they not understand how repetitive this is from a fan’s perspective?
Even the Lakers’ broadcasters were finding it dreadful, “That was a really long delay. I understand NBA Finals are not in the balance here?” said Stu Lantz. Three minutes of absolute nothingness later, “Please start the game!”. Even Bill Macdonald chimed in, “Can we resume play?”
But complaining without a solution is just whining so how about we try this out: The referee can check if a player had his foot on line or if there was more in a foul or whatever - during the timeout. That way the flow of the game is not staggered and fans like me are not counting the seconds like detention in high school.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for this level of diligence but just in more important moments. The last two minutes of a close game, a buzzer-beater, even an entire series-ending game but not this. Not the third quarter of the first preseason game of the season.
It’s not like it's a foreign idea for the NBA to change its rules in order to make the game more entertaining. They widened the lanes in 1952 so guards could be more impactful, the shot clock increased the pace, the time it took to cross mid-court was shortened to make the game more alive. They even changed the shot clock after an offensive rebound just three years ago, so teams would stop wasting time.
All of those came with pros and cons but have been widely accepted as good ideas in retrospect. But watching three referees rewatch the same replay 25 times like something is actually going to change, is so universally hated in every sport that it kills me that in the one we love, it seems to be only getting worse.
Sure, adding a little urgency to the referees might lead to a few more missed calls. Just like how Michael Jordan pushed off Byron Russell or Mike Bibby’s face fouled Kobe Bryant’s elbow (I have a feeling they were never going to review that one though). But that’s sports, you get over it. Right now, the technology is being used at the expense of the game, and it just sucks.