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The NBA trains referees with Summer League and virtual reality


Referees Cheryl Flores and Robert Hussey are shocked and upset because they missed a call during a video review of the game inside the stadium.

Ben Taylor, who has been an NBA referee for ten years, is in charge of today’s crew. He just showed the mistake on a monitor in the locker room to draw attention to it. Both of his charges are upset when they realize they did something wrong. It wasn’t the NBA Finals, was it? Was that a clear missed call that could have changed the way a close game turned out?

Not quite. The incident happened in Las Vegas during the NBA summer league. The rule in question is so unusual that the average NBA fan probably doesn’t know about it: When a bleeding player 1 stopped play in the first half, the shot clock should have been set to 14 seconds. Instead, it was left at the 12 seconds that it had before.

But why are Flores and Hussey so angry about what seems to be a small mistake in a meaningless summer competition?

It’s clear that pride is at play here. But it’s not as simple as that.

Both officials are at the end of the NBA’s professional pipeline, so they are in a tough race for full-time jobs in the best league in the world. Each is one of the best choices to fill one of the open spots on the NBA team for the 2022–23 season. About 70 of these jobs are open at any given time. Flores and Hussey are now at the top of a program that used to employ tens of thousands of people. Even in the summer league, every call is important because the senior officials of the league carefully watch every move the referees make.

This is just one way to look at the NBA’s officiating program in Las Vegas, which has become an important place for referee training all of a sudden. Officials-to-be can get experience on the field and have in-depth review sessions during the summer league. For the NBA, it’s a chance to see how the next generation of referees will do, since they may one day make decisions like those made in the NBA Finals. Every summer, the setup for this method gets bigger and more complicated. This year, it even uses cutting-edge virtual reality technology that could change the whole field of officiating. Even though NBA fans aren’t watching the games, all of this is going on.

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