By Art Garcia, NBA.com
Posted Oct 25 2008 4:38PM
While the fragile state of the economy, domestically and abroad, dominated the conversation during NBA commissioner David Stern's annual season tip-off conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, changes to the NBA's instant replay system may be the most notable news of the day.
As the league announced earlier Thursday, the expanded use of instant replay by game officials passed overwhelmingly by the NBA's Board of Governors. The two approved additions allow referees to use instant replay for the following scenarios:
• To determine at any point during a game whether a field goal was correctly scored as a 2- or 3-point field goal, and, for the purposes of awarding the correct number of free throws, whether a shooter was fouled while taking a 2- or 3-point attempt.
• When the game clock malfunctions during a play concluding with no time remaining on the clock (0:00) at the end of any quarter or overtime period.
Though the first scenario is likely to be come into play more often during the season, the latter has generated the most interest. Under the previous rules, game officials were required to reconstruct the timing of a play in a clock malfunction without the help of replay or another source.
That situation gained national attention at the end of the third quarter in Game 2 of the Detroit-Orlando playoff series last season. The Pistons inbounded the ball under their basket with 5.1 seconds left and the clock started before stopping with 4.8 seconds showing. After a pair of passes, Chauncey Billups hit a 3-pointer.
The clock remained at 4.8. The refs couldn't use instant replay or another source to decide whether Billups got the shot off in time. They determined that Billups scored with 0.5 seconds remaining. Television replays using a timer later revealed that the play took at least 5.2 seconds before Billups released his shot.
Using replay should enable the crew to make a ruling under similar circumstances with a "substantially greater accuracy," according to the league.
The issue of NBA players playing overseas was a topic of conversation, but one Stern doesn't seem too concerned with. He said he sees the Josh Childress case as more of an isolated event than the beginning of a trend, and added that it's an issue that mostly impacts players at the "mid-tier or slightly below."
He doubts the economic conditions overseas, including smaller fan bases, can support the continual poaching of NBA players, especially at the elite level.
Essentially, the NBA isn't worried about losing LeBron James to Olympiacos.
But Stern added: "We don't mind the competition. It's probably good for our players."
Stern also discussed the relative health of the league in terms of fan base, television ratings and sponsor renewals. Along those lines, Stern covered the profitability of teams, keeping tickets affordable for fans, expanding the NBA's market abroad and the increased competition from foreign teams for NBA-caliber players.
As for the economic climate, Stern estimated that roughly half of the league's 30 teams are currently turning a profit. He added that none of the teams are dealing with any leverage-related issues that could threaten a franchise's stability.
Stern didn't expose any dire financial forecasts for the league heading in the start of the 2008-09 season next week.
Easing the financial burden for the ticket-buying public was of particular interest to the owners. Teams make available an average 1,000 tickets per game for $10 or less, according to the commissioner. Owners are searching for ways to add even more value for fans.
Stern mentioned a promotion that's been in place for several years in Dallas that guarantees $2 tickets for selected games. He also spoke of expanding coverage of the league through online avenues and the league's broadcasts partners.
"Our owners seem quite determined to demonstrate they want to be contributing members of community," Stern said, "and focus on what 2 1/2 hours of fun can offer to families."
Other topics broached:
• Retired Major General Ron Johnson, the senior vice president for referee operations, helped conduct an extensive presentation on the officiating program for the owners.
• Stern said the game of basketball received a global boast from the Olympics, adding that 26 of the 36 players on the medal stand had NBA experience. Regular-season games in Europe are likely before the 2012 Games in London.
• The league is also aware of the efforts in Seattle to bring the NBA back to the city. The commissioner said that his office has had positive contact parties regarding those efforts, but declined to elaborate.
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