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NBA considers adding off-site official for more efficient instant replay reviews

(Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images) Adam Silver (left) and David Stern are weighing the merits of a new instant replay system. (Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images)

The NBA's top brass announced Thursday that the league will investigate making changes to its in-game instant replay system this offseason.

Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver told reporters at the NBA's annual Finals press conference that the league is weighing the merits of adding an off-site replay official in hopes of speeding up a sometimes cumbersome process.

The NBA has steadily added in-game video review for various situations over the last decade. Beginning with reviews for buzzer-beating baskets, the system has expanded to include flagrant fouls, altercations, clock malfunctions, whether a three-point shooter's foot was on the line, clear-path fouls, late-game goaltending calls, among other scenarios.

The current process involves the three on-court officials stopping play to head to a courtside monitor, where they can review the disputed call or situation. The referees are at the mercy of the video feed available to them and are usually eyeing a fairly small screen and using headphones to hear the audio.

The vast majority of plays that are reviewed under the current system eventually end with the correct call being made, and Stern maintained that the NBA's fans prefer the current replay system to no replay system, because it reduces the referees' influence upon the game's outcome.

That said, the biggest complaint with the system is that it takes too long to unfold. The delay effect is compounded, of course, when multiple reviews are required in short succession. Two or three replays that take two-to-three minutes each to complete can bring a game to a halt fairly easily. Meanwhile, fans at home are able to see the plays shown over and over again in high-definition while fans in the arena often have the same luxury on giant scoreboards. What appears obvious to the fans in an instant often takes significantly longer for the league's officials to conclude with total certainty under the current setup.

Stern said that the NBA will consider a system used by the National Hockey League that involves an additional official reviewing the play in question at an off-site facility and then communicating the correct call to the referees on the court, who make the necessary adjustments and proceed with the game.

"We want to get it right," Stern said. "We do have concerns about additional replay, but we're looking at it. we're actually even toying with the notion of whether replay can be done off-site review, the way it's done in the NHL, to relieve the burden on the referees, who are stuck in the middle of intense game-time action."

Silver added: "An off-site review would potentially speed up the process. ... If you have a group of officials in a broadcast center somewhere -- [the] location could almost be anywhere in this day of age of digital media -- there wouldn't be that delay which officials need to walk over, turn the monitor around, put the headphones on, call for the replays. You could have off-site officials looking at multiple monitors at once."

The method for conducting review will be discussed when the NBA's Competition Committee meets later this month. Regardless of whether off-site review is adopted for the 2013-14 season, Stern expressed a desire for a more efficient instant replay system.

"We've got to find a way to make it a little smoother," he said. "But we like [instant replay] a lot, because it is very much evidence of the fact that we care about getting [the calls] right."

One concern voiced by Stern and Silver: how and when communication would take place between the on-court referees and the off-site video replay official and whether their ability to communicate would be compromised by noise or technology issues.
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