NBA to institute several new initiatives to improve officiating

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA will start keeping stats on officials, too.

The league plans to hire more officials, plus change the way they are scheduled and evaluated.

The NBA will launch an Officiating Advisory Council, among a number of initiatives announced Thursday following a six-month review of the officiating program conducted by Byron Spruell, the president of league operations.

Spruell said after completing negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement, Commissioner Adam Silver’s next priority was the officiating program. Spruell, while praising the refs’ performance, said the NBA has already expanded the data it reviews and another step is “bringing in more talent to this demanding profession.”

“As I say, they do a good job but how do we continue to improve it? Evaluate it with a very comprehensive data system that allows us to look at accuracy of their calls, errors in a game,” Spruell said. “And while that can be sensitive to some extent for our officials, it’s still just ultimately going to make the current pool of 64 officials better and better as we evaluate their talent day to day, game to game, play to play.”

The current staff of 64 will grow to at least 70 next season and the league plans to increase it by 25 percent over the next three years. Spruell said the league will consider promotions from the NBA Development League and NCAA referees, former players and referees working internationally.

“Twenty-five percent of our players now are international or not born in the U.S., so why shouldn’t we try to match some of that in terms of talent coming from international flavor into the ref population as well?” Spruell said.

A larger staff would allow the league to have what Spruell called “game administrators,” who would sit courtside and communicate between the game officials and the Replay Center. And it would have more refs in place if the league ever decides to have more than the current three-person crew calling games. It has experimented with four- and five-man crews in the D-League, which will continue.

Spruell said the league could keep certain crews together, similar to the NFL and Major League Baseball, rather than assign them individually to games. That could trim their travel and improve chemistry.

“It will actually get to some better rest for our referees, so wellness comes into play in this,” Spruell said. “But ultimately, continue to support the best of the best, and I think increasing the pool is one way to do that.”

The advisory council will include Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the former 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; former players and current television analysts Doug Collins and Kenny Smith; and former longtime NBA referee Steve Javie. Current players, coaches and referees will be added at a later date.

Other initiatives include:

– Data review. Spruell said a new tracking system launched Feb. 1 allows the league to video review about triple the plays per game to 250 from the previous 75-80. It’s closer to what teams are tracking.

– Coaches’ evaluations. Coaches provide midseason and end of season evaluations of referees, but now have an app to submit comments after each game.

– Training techniques. The league will use virtual reality among new methods to train refs.

– Rulebook rewrite. Spruell said a long-term goal is rewriting the rulebook to more closely match the way the game is played.