Consider it the Shadow NBA, where rulings are made that could turn the standings upside down, but where the corrections never actually are set in motion.
Such is life with the NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Reports.
To put the non-impact into perspective, consider that if the corrected calls actually had been made in the first place, the Heat very well could be standing at 21-20 at this midpoint of their schedule, instead of seven games above .500.
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– In the Heat's 90-89 Dec. 20 road victory over the Boston Celtics, the NBA's after-the-fact report ruled that Josh Richardson had actually tugged on Kyrie Irving's jersey when Irving missed the short jumper that would have given Boston the victory.
That report read: "(Observable in enhanced video) Using slow motion/freeze frame from the LO SLA and LATR angles, Richardson (MIA) does not just brush Irving's (BOS) untucked jersey, but briefly grasps it as he attempts the shot." Yes, slow-motion, free-frame, with two remote cameras called into play.
– In the Heat's 107-103 Jan. 5 victory over the visiting New York Knicks, the league ruled that Richardson fouled Courtney Lee on his 3-point attempt with 2.1 seconds to play and the Knicks down by that final margin. If called, Lee could have made the first two free throws, with an intentional miss and resulting desperation basket possibly forcing a second overtime.
That report read: "Richardson (MIA) makes contact to Lee (NYK) that affects his jump shot attempt."
– Then, in the Heat's 90-89 Tuesday road victory over the Toronto Raptors, the league ruled that rookie center Bam Adebayo twice could have been cited for uncalled illegal-defense violations, which would have led to Raptors free throws.
That report read: "(Incidental or immaterial) Adebayo (MIA) straddles the lane line without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds" and, later, "Adebayo (MIA) is in the paint without actively guarding an opponent for longer than three seconds."
None of it, of course, matters. The Heat got the victories and moved up the standings. The reports are released for informational and transparency purposes only.
So what to make of it all?
"I don't think anything of it," said Richardson, who twice got the benefit of the doubt on the aforementioned plays. "It's after the fact, so I don't pay attention to 'em."
Yet it could be argued that, at worse, the reports could serve as more than teaching points for the referees. Richardson, for example, had no reason to be anywhere near Lee during that final 3-point attempt in overtime against the Knicks, a successful basket having no impact on the overall result.
"Instinct," he said.
But the report also offered coach Erik Spoelstra the opportunity to go back and point out what could have been, based on how the league said the officiating crew should have adjudicated that play.
"In that situation you can make a case for that, certainly," Spoelstra said of the lesson of needlessly defending such a player.
To the greater point, though, Spoelstra said he doesn't want the what-could-have-beens to clutter his players' thought process. So he uses discretion when it comes to making the reports part of his lesson plans.
"We don't necessarily review 'em after every game," he said. "We look at 'em as a staff, but we don't review 'em every game with the team. If there's a teachable point, we'll mention it. A lot of times it may be a rule.
"But it's an imperfect process right now, that I think the intentions are right. The NBA is trying to make the system of officiating more accountable, to improve, to make your mistakes and then whatever happens to review it and show that result. I think all of that is in the right place, the right intention. But it is somewhat clumsy."
Richardson said he was unaware of the oversight in either of the two aforementioned situations. He said he is not sure he would have acted differently in either.
"I think the postgame reports aren't necessary, because it's over," he said. "I guess they're going to do it because I guess it helps the referees, I guess, to see it next time."
As could be expected, Richardson said there was no need to issue the corrections in the first place.
"I didn't foul Lee," he said.
"And I didn't grab Kyrie's jersey."