NBA to Monitor Refs With Data-Tracking Cameras

by September 05, 2013
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The League announced today that they’re footing the bill for the installation of data-tracking cameras in all 29 NBA arenas. One of the uses for the fancy new devices, will be even more detailed monitoring of the referees. (Other aspects of the game that could be affected by these changes include fitness and practice, the traditional box score, and most critically, contract negotiations.) Per Grantland: “Half the league’s teams had already purchased the camera systems at about $100,000 per year. The league’s move to pay for the remaining 15 teams caught a lot of folks close to the process by surprise. It won’t tout it, but one reason the league acted fast was to immediately enhance its ability to monitor referees — always a touchy subject. The cameras represent the most precise way to grade the three on-court officials based on how consistently and early they get into the league’s three set positions — called ‘lead,’ ‘slot,’ and ‘trail’ — and whether they make appropriate calls from those positions based on their exact sight lines. This is the next stage in seeing which officials are the best, and thus deserving of high-stakes assignments, and in quantifying that in ways that are hard to dispute. ‘We will use whatever data and means we can to improve our referees,’ says Steve Hellmuth, the NBA’s executive vice president of operations and technology. ‘The refs haven’t been tracked before. Now for the first time, they will be.’ The league has already started using the cameras to check on the enforcement of defensive three-second violations out of concern that defensive players routinely break the rule by lingering in the lane too long. (The results of said studies are inconclusive so far, say several sources familiar with the inquiry.) One catch: It’s unclear if the league will share any referee-related data with the subscribing teams. ‘I don’t think we’ve thought about that at this point,’ Hellmuth says. The league has long hoarded data on which individual referees make particular foul calls, something you won’t find in the play-by-play and a key piece of information a few teams have paid outside consultants to track. The plan for now appears to be for the league to keep the camera-related referee data to itself, a move that will not please teams.”