Former Chicago Bull Kirk Hinrich argues a call with referee...

Former Chicago Bull Kirk Hinrich argues a call with referee Monty McCutchen in a 2007 game. McCutchen is now the head of Referee Development. Credit: AP/Jerry Lai

The NBA training camps will open up Monday, but before the players get on the court another preseason camp was taking place in a hotel in Brooklyn this past week.

The NBA’s referees convened for Referee Preseason Meetings, a three-day crash course, studying rule changes, spending hours with video to reveal intricacies of potential calls and even spent some time playing Jeopardy. 

Monty McCutchen, long one of the NBA’s best officials and now Vice President, head of Referee Development, used the sessions to educate the referees and also to continue bringing the refs into the light, working with the NBA’s Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations, Michelle Johnson to provide explanations and open dialogue on calls.

"It’s OK to look under the hood,” McCutchen said. “We own our work. We’re excited by our work. We’re not perfect in our work. But even in that imperfection we think we do really good work. … There’s nothing to hide in that work. We’re hoping to get aligned with whatever we send to officials that we also post it publicly, that we give it to our teams, we give it to the players association.”

McCutchen discussed the last two-minute reports, but one of the things that he and the referees are working with the NBA to do is provide simple explanations of rules in real time, whether through social media or on the broadcast of games.

“We put out videos to show points of education, put that up online,” he said. “We want that to be the case, so the public at large, or at least the discerning public, can be informed on the craft and the work and the efforts that referees put in to serve the game. i think that’s one of the biggest misconstrued things about referees is that we show up with our hearts intent on causing fan bases problems, consternation. that’s not true. Mainly what we want to is to serve the game.”

There were three new rules the officials were focusing on this week, all of which were approved by the NBA Board of Governors on Friday. McCutchen pointed out that educating the referees so that they will be ready for the changes was necessary.

The first change is a simplification of the clear path rule.

“Which, universally, we all accept is a good thing,” McCutchen said. “It’s a difficult rule, based on many factors. … In quick order here, if a transition opportunity is stopped by a foul in which the defender is not between the man with the basketball and the rim, it’s a clear path foul. There are some exceptions, if a teammate is ahead of the person fouling, in front of the play, no clear path. In the past, clear path had to originate in the backcourt, That’s no longer true. If I steal the ball in the backcourt, my new possession is in the front court, it is a clear path.”

The second rule change is that on all offensive rebounds the shot clock will reset to 14 seconds rather than 24, including off of missed free throws or jump balls. The change will even take effect if a team takes a quick shot with, for example, 20 seconds left on the clock - shifting down to 14. 

The final change is an expansion of the definition of a hostile act. 

“We realize that the way the rule was written it could only be player to player,” McCutchen said. “We wanted to be able to see a hostile act where an ejection occurs and could be player and a coach, player and a referee, player and a fan. For example, if a referee felt jostled from behind, you could use replay to see if it was accidental. Listen, how many times does this happen? Rarely, but if it does we want to make sure we adjudicate it properly.”

More NBA news