On Monday afternoon, the NBA D-League announced in a press release that they would be experimenting with 4-and-5 person officiating crews for nine games this season. Within that press release, the league announced that the nine-game trial will begin on December 26th when the Westchester Knicks face the Long Island Nets at the Barclays Center. This experiment would allow the NBA to gather data to see if having additional referees involved affects the game.
The NBA utilizing the D-League to experiment with new rules has seemingly been happening since the league’s inception in 2001. However, the experimenting has picked up since Adam Silver’s rise to NBA commissioner, as he seems absolutely committed towards the NBA being a more fluid and perhaps shorter experience that would make the game best suited for the social media world. Over the last few years, the NBADL has been utilized as a testing ground for possible innovations that include: a coach’s challenge, a reset timeout and a 3-minute overtime period.
Further explanation of how the 4-and-5 person officiating crews will be implemented is seen below:
“We are committed to finding ways to better serve our game and provide the highest levels of training for our officials,” said Bob Delaney, NBA Vice President, Referee Operations & Director of Officials. “We are confident in how our three-person system works and are constantly thinking of ways to improve our game. The four- and five-referee initiative is a prime example of that focus and will help the NBA with research and development. The NBA D-League provides the perfect opportunity to conduct this test.”
The four-person experiments will be run in two configurations. The first will feature two officials in the lead position and two split between the slot and the trail. The second is highlighted by two officials in the slot position with the additional two as a trail and a lead, respectively. In the five-person tests, the existing three-person system will rotate typically with the two additional officials taking lead stationary positions on each end of the court. The testing comes on the heels of similar experimental four-person crews tested during the 2016 Utah Jazz Summer League.
The full slate of games in the trial will take place at Barclays Center and will feature the Long Island Nets and nine different NBA D-League Eastern Conference opponents between Dec. 26 and March 19. The first five scheduled experimental games will be officiated by four referees, while the remaining four contests will feature five-person crews.
Following the announcement, Ridiculous Upside reached out to two former NBADL coaches, Gene Cross and David Arseneault, to get their thoughts on this new experiment from the NBA D-League. Both Arseneault and Cross are optimistic about the new idea, a significant change from the ideas expressed by Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Among the two former NBADL coaches that we reached out to, Arsenault was probably the most confident. “Fantastic experiment idea, I think a lot of calls are missed because officials are out of position,” the former Bighorns head coach told Ridiculous Upside. “The pace of the game and quick changes make it next to impossible to get a good angle for every call. More officials means a better chance of them being in the right position. I have confidence that when officials are in position then the right call will be made nearly every time.”
Although he was optimistic about the experiment, Cross had some worries about the idea of five referees being on the court together. “It does open up the potential for more technical fouls, “ said the former Erie BayHawks head coach. “More personalities, more interactions with the potential for negative interactions increased exponentially just due to sheer numbers.”
That idea of five referees on the court being too much is also held by some former D-League players. One player that holds those views is former Red Claws wing Omar Reed. “ Five referees is overdoing it,” Reed said. “We don't want too much input due to the possibility of more stoppage and foul calls for little things than it already is.”
As you might already sense, both former D-League players and coaches are perfectly fine with the idea of adding one more referee to the game. However, the idea of five referees worries both parties due to the feeling that it would lead to a slowed down game or the possibility of more technical fouls being called. Although the jury is still out on how this experiment will work out, there’s no question that there the basketball world will be watching to see how this process unfolds.