The NBA coach’s challenge is back, and here to stay.
Following the recommendation from the league’s competition committee, the NBA’s board of governors voted Thursday to keep the challenge as an option for coaches going forward. It was introduced last year on a one-year trial.
Coaches challenged 700 calls last season, including the playoffs. Calls were overturned 308 times, or a rate of 44%.
“Our coaches were receptive to the pilot version of the coach’s challenge, increasing usage and becoming more comfortable with the concept and strategic aspects as the season progressed,” said Byron Spruell, the NBA’s President for League Operations.
Also approved by the board of governors Thursday: a plan to give teams the ability to expand their active roster on game nights from 13 to 15 for this season — a move being made largely in response to the coronavirus pandemic and in anticipation of the likelihood that teams will be missing players from time to time.
“There will be people that get the virus. It’s going to happen and we have to adjust,” Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said Thursday, a few hours before the board of governors convened, when asked about the health and safety protocols for the season. “And when it happens, no one’s going to know how ... no one’s going to understand how it happened. But we have to be able to have an adjustment, to understand that things are going to happen. We have to adjust, to go on and figure it out.”
Plus, the trade deadline is finally set for this season: It'll be March 25, or about two weeks into the “second half" of the schedule. The schedule is known through March 4, with the remainder to be determined in the coming weeks.
The league tweaked two parts of the challenge rule from last season. Teams can no longer challenge the preceding call if they incur a delay of game violation before asking for the review, and — in situations where officials meet to determine what call to make — the time window that a team has to challenge that call now will not begin until they get the final ruling on the play from those referees.
And just because the rule is staying doesn’t mean it can’t be further tweaked in the future. The league has acknowledged in the past that it is a bit of a tightrope between wanting to shorten games, not interrupt the pace of a game and wanting to get as many calls as possible correct.
“We’ll continue to monitor the data and see how that can be refined,” said NBA vice president Monty McCutchen, who oversees referee development and training. “This is a tool to serve the game. The data will help drive where that tool should be refined and how it should go forth in the future.”
The challenge option wasn’t the most popular addition in the league last season. Teams must have a time-out remaining to use their challenge, they are limited to one challenge per game regardless of the outcome of the reviewed call and retain the time-out only if they win the challenge.
“I’m generally not a fan of replay,” said New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy, who was a television analyst last season. “I think I’ve made that pretty clear. And so, as a result, I’m not really a big fan of the rule. ... We have a strategy. I had my assistant coaches do some research on it and I think we have a pretty good idea of when we’ll use it and when we won’t.”
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