Fort Wayne Mad Ants Part of Four-Official D-League Experiment

The NBA is trying out adding another referee on the floor during the Fort Wayne Mad Ants matchup with the Long Island Nets.

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants’ Jan. 10 game against the Long Island Nets could help provide an answer to Paul George’s recent criticism of officiating.

Currently the NBA Development League is conducting an experiment using four- and five-person officiating crews at Long Island Nets home games. One of those games is against the Mad Ants on Jan. 10.

The D-League trial extends the experiment that took place during Summer League play last summer in Salt Lake City. However, the Salt Lake City Trial featured only four-official crews.

The Mad Ants will be the last team to be part of the four-official phase of the experiment. They will be playing the game with one of two different four-official configurations. One configuration features two lead officials with two split between slot and trail spots. The other grouping has two slot officials and the other two in trail and lead positions.

Starting with the Nets’ game against the Greensboro Swarm on Jan. 12, the D-League will begin the five-official phase of the experiment. That configuration would add two stationary lead officials on each end of the court. The remaining three would operate as the existing three-official team operates presently.

Mike Bantom, NBA executive vice president of referee operations, told Andy Larsen of KSL.com that one of the advantages of having a fourth official in a two-lead formation would be having baseline weak side coverage.

One of the ways we’re looking at employing that fourth referee is as a second referee on the baseline on that weak side so that the lead official does not have to transition from one side of the court to the other as the ball gets reversed.

But Bantom said that formation doesn’t help with calling perimeter plays.

For example, on the perimeter, where there’s a lot of play now in today’s game, where also a lot of the hard to detect travels take place, we still have the same two man coverage. So, that particular formation is helpful in some ways and not so helpful in others. We also look at another formation where there are two slot referees, and there’s one lead and one trail, and that gives us some of some advantages in terms of that the other one doesn’t give us. But then there are some rotation issues with that, that we have to try and take a look at and see if we can smooth those out before that would be something that would be employable.

If the D-League experiment succeeds, the next step would be to continue the test during next year’s Summer League games.

Even if larger crews are successful, it would be awhile before they would become standard in the NBA. The reason, according to Bantom, is more referees would have to be hired and trained.

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