NBA to begin analyzing referees’ crunch-time calls

Dec 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; NBA referee Joey Crawford during the game between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. The Suns defeated the Lakers 114-108. 

Kirby Lee/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA will begin revealing whether it determined referees’ crunch-time calls to be right or wrong.

Starting Monday and continuing throughout the playoffs, the league will release play-by-play reports of all calls and relevant no-calls in the final minutes of close games. Such information had been shared only internally.

The assessments will be released by 5 p.m. the day after each game and will stand as the league’s comment on whether the most disputed calls were correct. The reports will focus on the last two minutes of games that were within five points at the two-minute mark and all of any overtime periods.

Each play is reviewed by a senior basketball operations manager or senior referee manager. The reports will say how the play was graded — correct or incorrect — and will be accompanied by a comment and video link. The reports will be posted at NBA.com/official and also on the league’s media site.

"Our policy in the past was pretty much to wait until we had something that was controversial enough to really garner a lot of interest and we didn’t think that that was a practical approach," NBA executive vice president of referee operations Mike Bantom said. "And it also wasn’t very fair because they always tended to be errors that were made, so we tried to come up with a system that would allow us to provide some insight into our process and set a criteria that would allow us to be more standardized and more consistent."

Bantom said the referees had input into the plans and welcomed the change from the league’s former policy of announcing only when calls were incorrect.

"Our prior practice of commenting only about mistakes that they made was a bone for them, something we didn’t feel that was fair to them and also something that they weren’t happy about as well," Bantom said. "So I think this is a solution that puts them in a much better light, doesn’t hide the fact that they are human and will make mistakes, but also points out the fact that the overwhelming majority of the calls that they get correct."

The NBA has expanded the information it made public in recent years, from announcing referee assignments to issuing to the media the point of emphasis memos it sends to teams. The league opened an instant replay center this season and posts online video of the replays used by officials during their reviews.

Bantom said he never foresaw releasing the "last two minutes" reports, but believes it will benefit both the fans and the officials.

"I think it goes back to our initiatives to try to be more transparent about what we do with our officials program. I think our fans have a lot of interest in understanding — or at least we have an interest, too, in helping them understand — how our rules are applied so that people don’t have a misperception about a particular call or non-call," Bantom said. "So we think if we are consistent in disclosing them, we will give them a greater appreciation for both how difficult the job is that our officials do and how good they are at it."