NBA D-League to experiment with 4- and 5-person crews

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA is going to take a look at having more officials on the court.

The league said Monday that nine upcoming NBA Development League games will feature four- and five-person crews instead of the customary three, in an effort to collect data and see if having additional officials involved affects the game.

All nine games will be hosted by the Long Island Nets at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the NBA’s Nets.

The first of the trial games is Dec. 26.

“We are confident in how our three-person system works and are constantly thinking of ways to improve our game,” said Bob Delaney, the NBA’s Vice President for Referee Operations and Director of Officials. “The four- and five-referee initiative is a prime example of that focus and will help the NBA with research and development.”

It’s not the first time the D-League has been a laboratory of sorts for the NBA. The D-League has been a testing ground in the past for possible rules changes, along with changes in technology and equipment. This season, some of the innovations being brought to the D-League include a coach’s challenge, a reset timeout and a 3-minute overtime period.

“I’m a little more of the school of thought that the more people that are out there, the less accountability there is,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, adding that having more people on the floor will make the court seem even more crammed.

Washington coach Scott Brooks said he’s never thought of adding more refs, then offered a bit of a comical perspective.

“It’ll just give me a couple extra guys to yell at,” Brooks said. “That’ll be great. I like it. I’m tired of just yelling at three.”

The experimental crews will have three different configurations.

There’s a four-person crew with two officials in lead spots, and two others split between slot and trail positions. Another four-person test will have two officials in the slot, with the others in the trail and lead. And the five-person crew will feature the existing three-person system, but with two other officials in stationary lead positions on opposite ends of the court.

The NBA said five games will be devoted to the four-person tests, with the five-person tests being phased in starting Jan. 12. In all, 10 of the D-League’s teams will be exposed to the larger crews.

The NBA went from two-person crews to three-person crews for the 1988-89 season. There’s been talk of larger crews for years, and a four-person crew was studied during summer league play at Salt Lake City back in July.