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3 simple ways to improve NBA instant replay

Using technology to get calls right is great. Stopping the game for interminable replays is not so great. Let's find a happy medium.

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The NBA Replay Center has likely helped officials get more calls correct. It also still takes a while to review, though the NBA tells SB Nation the average length of a review is 43.6 seconds and the average length of a game is the same it was last season. The Replay Center gets involved in each review by the officials, and these days, officials review a lot.

In the aggregate, this is good. Using technology to improve the accuracy of results is a net positive for the league.

But some tweaks are in order to make those often long reviews less annoying and disruptive. We're at the point where many of us dread when an official makes the hand motion signifying a review. It doesn't have to be that way! Here are three small fixes that could help NBA games pick up the pace enough to make us love review again.

Review clear path fouls during timeouts

Clear path fouls, if awarded, earn a team two foul shots plus the repercussions of the foul itself (an inbounds or foul shots, depending on the bonus). When there is a question as to whether a clear path foul has been committed, the game stops while officials go to the monitor for a review that often seems to last two minutes. You know what else lasts two minutes? Standard timeouts, of which there are plenty during an NBA game.

Except at the end of games, there's no particular reason the bonus free throws from a clear path foul need to be shot immediately. The NBA should instruct officials to review all potential clear path fouls during the next full timeout and award extra free throws at that point if necessary. In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and in overtime, clear path fouls can be reviewed in real-time per current custom.

Review flagrant fouls during timeouts

This is tougher because the penalty for a Flagrant 2 is an immediate ejection. By delaying the review of a potential Flagrant 2, you could be allowing a player who ought to be disqualified to continue to play.

So here's the fix: If an official determines a potential Flagrant 2 has taken place, the offending player must exit the game. If after review during a timeout a standard personal foul or Flagrant 1 is called, the player may return. This could act as an extra deterrent on particularly hard fouls.

This could also incentivize flopping to a degree -- if playacting a Flagrant 2 can get an opposing player off the floor for a few possessions, one might dramatize the action. The solution: beef up the penalties for flopping, up to potential suspension. (Also, place the same conditions on the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and all of overtime here.)

Set a review time limit

Officials almost always make a call on the foul before reviewing the play. In these cases, set a 90-second time limit. If the call on the court can't be overturned in 90 seconds of review, let it stand. You might get a few more bad calls throughout the season, but you should save some time. The idea is not to rush officials or make their job even more stressful. It's simply to strike a balance between accuracy and the flow of the game.

Certainly the NBA Board of Governors will consider a host of ideas to improve the game in the offseason, as it does every year. Tweaking use of the new Replay Center should be high among those ideas.


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