LAS VEGAS — The NBA’s Board of Governors met on Thursday. Here are some highlights from the Adam Silver/David Stern press session after the meeting:
• The board approved a slew of rule changes that will go into effect next season. Among the most important: Officials will be able to review goaltending calls in the last two minutes of regulation and all of overtime. This issue hit its crescendo during an early-season Portland-Oklahoma City game, one in which the Thunder won thanks to a bogus goaltending call against LaMarcus Aldridge on a last-second Kevin Durant shot in overtime. This is a no-brainer, and the NBA should seriously consider extending the option for review to the rest of the game. The rule applies only to called goaltends — not no-calls on shot blocks in which the ball might be on the way down — and that makes sense. A called goaltending violation stops the game, while the game continues after a non-call. Reviewing every non-call would thus interrupt the flow of the game and is impossible in practical terms.
Reviewing all goaltends could slow the game, but it doesn’t have to. The league could review them during commercial breaks, simply erasing the two points, just as officials can now review foot-on-the-arc jumpers during dead time. In theory, reviews should be immediate since teams want to to play and strategize with full knowledge of the accurate score. But the damage in this regard would be minimal, and an incorrectly called goaltend — and the resulting two points — alters the time/score situation from the moment it happens until the very end of the game.
Also: There just aren’t that many goaltending or basket interference calls — just 350 or 400 per season on average, according to figures the league sent me last year. So it’s not as if you’d be slowing every game to a crawl multiple times with these reviews.
This rule change represents a step in the right direction. Let’s just hope it’s not the final step.
• Officials will be able to conduct in-game review on all flagrant foul calls. When an official calls a flagrant, they will be able to then go to video and review whether the foul should be a “flagrant 1″ or a more serious “flagrant 2″ — or even just a regular old foul. Under the old rules, officials only had the video review option for fouls originally called as a “flagrant 2,” since they result in the immediate ejection of the player committing the foul. They could not review a “flagrant 1″ for upgrade or downgrade. The issue came to a head in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between Indiana and Miami, when officials whistled both Tyler Hansbrough and Udonis Haslem for “flagrant 1s” on violent fouls. The league upgraded both fouls to “flagrant 2s” after the game, and it subsequently suspended Haslem for Game 6.
This is a good step, since it increases the chance that referees make the correct decision on something as important as a player’s potential ejection. It also gives the referees another tool to control any escalation of violence by upgrading a “flagrant 1″ to a “flagrant 2″ if merited, nipping the possibility of retaliation in the bud by booting the first offender. But flagrant foul rulings will remain controversial, and on somewhat shaky ground, as long as the league sticks to a vague definition of what actually constitutes a flagrant — one that centers on whether contact is deemed “excessive” and/or “unnecessary.”