Add A 4th Referee

In the NBA, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett are all considered on the back 9 of their careers… because they’re over 30.  I mean… who the hell can expect them to keep up with phenoms like LeBron James… Chris Paul… Dwight Howard… and so on?

Yet… 50 year-old Joe Derosa, 63 year-old Joe Forte, and 68 year-old Dick Bavetta are expected to keep up with these bigger, faster, stronger athletes… and accurately make split-second decisions.  These decisions affect the outcomes of games… and further… how many millions of dollars franchises make, and players can earn.  The team that advances in this series will sell more merchandise, sell extra tickets and concessions, and get more ad revenue.  Players who play well in these series can establish a status that earns them more… or less money come contract time.  One bad call can influence a game… and cost teams and players a ton of money.

So with that much at stake… and with guys who almost always the oldest players on the court… why hasn’t the NBA added a 4th referee?  Take a look at the standard referee positioning during that pivotal “offensive foul” on Paul Pierce:

The red shaded area is the position where a ref would have been able to see the exact angle LeBron James took.  From the vantage point of the two officials on the left hand side… they only see Pierce drive… and LeBron fall.  They don’t see him reaching in… they don’t see him not square.  Split second decision time… and its an offensive foul.  From that perspective… you can see that you might have made the same call.  You’ve got 500 pounds of human beings going at full speed at a critical time… and you’ve got to make a decision.  But… if a 4th referee had been on the floor… that angle would have been covered:

The 4th ref would have seen one of two things:  (1) the contact was allowable since both players were intiating it… and it would have been Boston Celtics basketball since it went out of bounds off LeBron… or (2) LeBron impeded the progress to the basket and it would have been a blocking foul. 

There’s no doubt that it was a bad call after you see the replays… but in the referee alignment… you can see how an offensive foul call was made (as much as I hate it). 

It would have also come in handy in that missed goal-tend on Delonte West.  Calling it correctly would have given the Celtics a basket AND a foul call.  If Pierce gets the call and makes 2 free throws… then we have a whole different ball game.

This may sound like sour grapes… but the only thing I want is for calls to be made correctly.  I’m sure fans in Utah (who were chanting “Refs You Suck”last night) would agree.  And when the Cavs feel like they’re screwed on a call in Game 7… they’ll be saying the same thing too. 

There’s a ton of money at stake in the playoffs… and the NBA’s credibility is on the line on a national stage.  These young athletes are too fast… the plays on the court go too quickly… the pressure to make the right call is too high.  Why would the NBA willingly leave a blind spot on the floor?  Its time to add a 4th referee to NBA games so the proper calls can be made much more often.


6 Responses

  1. It wasn’t a goaltend. Here’s the NBA’s goaltending rule:


    Section I-A Player Shall Not:
    c. During a field goal attempt, touch a ball after it has touched any part of the backboard above ring level, whether the ball is considered on its upward or downward flight.

    d. During a field goal attempt, touch a ball after it has touched the backboard below the ring level and while the ball is on its upward flight.

    The ball was below ring level, and was no longer traveling upwards. It was ricocheting backwards. Thus, no goaltend.

  2. um…nary we forget about Bavetta v. Barkley!

  3. Also, a 4th ref might be useful, but the way you’ve positioned them leaves no one near the basket. I think a diamond pattern would be more likely. In your diagram, use the current positioning, but slide the left side ref coser to the baseline, and put the fourth guy at the top of the arc. They’d still have a better angle on the play last night.

  4. Good point about the positioning. However they’re positioned… it will be a boost.

    And the ball hit the backboard… and was then touched… that’s a goaltend.

  5. Oops. I forgot about 11 c.
    “c. For goaltending to occur, the ball, in the judgment of the official, must have a chance to score. ”

    ( The whole rule is here. )

    A ball ricocheting backwards off the foam has no chance to score.

  6. Anyway, the main part of your post is dead on. The charge was a terrible call, and a 4th ref probably would have had someone in position to get it right.

    I actually think it may have been a makeup call for the no-calls against Lebron on the other end.

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