Sacramento Kings file official protest over loss in Memphis

The Sacramento Kings believe they were wronged in last Thursday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have now filed an official protest with the NBA.

In case you missed it, the Kings blew a 26-point advantage versus the Grizzlies, only to retake the lead in the final moments.  With 0.6 of a second remaining, Ben McLemore missed a pair of free throws, the second of which was corralled by Zach Randolph with 0.3 second remaining on the clock.  The fact that the clock never started on the rebound is another point of contention, but not the focus of Sacramento’s protest.  This sequence of events set up one of the more bizarre finishes in recent memory.

The Inbounds Play

The first point of contention from Sacramento is that the inbounds pass from Vince Carter was tipped by Kings reserve center Ryan Hollins before traveling to Courtney Lee under the basket for the lay up.  If the pass was indeed tipped, the clock should have started and the game would be over before the ball even made it into the paint.

Here is a look at the Sacramento feed, including the live commentary of the Kings broadcast team of Grant Napear and Jerry Reynolds.

Sacramento believes they have visual evidence that the ball changes both spin and direction on its way to Lee and that Hollins’ big right hand is the reason.

“Yeah it was deflected,” Napear says during the clip.  “There is no way they can say that ball was not touched.  This is going to be a Kings victory.”

Napear was wrong.  The team of Monty McCutchen, Kane Fitzgerald and Brent Barnaky turned to the replay team in Secaucus, New Jersey for assistance and denied the Kings’ claim that the ball was touched.  During the replay, McCutchen can clearly be heard saying that he sees space between Hollins’ hand and the ball, which is why he made the decision that he did.

If we stop there, then it is a judgement call.  Unless you bring in a physicist to track the spin and trajectory of the ball (which the Kings have offered to do), then it comes down to whether there is enough visual evidence to overturn the call.  The fact that the play was originally called in favor of Memphis hurts the Kings.

Here is a look at the possible tip frame by frame by Dave Lack of Sactown Royalty.

appeal

 The Shot

If the pass was tipped, then the clock starts immediately and the game is over long before Lee’s shot.

Clearly the officiating team focused on whether Hollins tipped the ball or not and ignored the second portion of the play.  Clearly there is a clock operator error in this game, but to what extent is the question.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Kings believe that the earliest Lee released the ball was 0.377 of a second, but it is probably closer to 0.423 of a second.  The clock operator didn’t start the clock until the ball was already out of Lee’s hand, which is egregious, but we are talking about tenths and even hundredth of a second here.

The mistake was compounded by the officials not taking the extra time to realign the clock to the actual moment that Lee caught and then released the ball.  The replay booth in New Jersey clearly has the technology and for that matter, the officials on the sidelines do as well.

According to Andy Isaac of UPROXX Sports, the frame by frame breakdown confirms the Kings’ assertion that the shot took longer than the allotted 0.3 second.  His visual has the ball leaving Lee’s hand somewhere between 0.4 and 0.423 of a second.

grizzlies kings shot clock

The Decision

The NBA promises a resolution no later than December 2.  Both teams have five days to present their evidence.  The Sacramento Kings will likely offer a 300-page report including visual evidence that will put the Zapruder Film to shame.  Memphis will likely show their team celebrating in front of a packed house and add a yellow sticky note saying they agree with the official outcome of the game.

The league rarely overturns games, but that is exactly what the Kings are asking for. There will not be a replay of the final 0.3 second, either the ball was touched by Hollins or Lee took too much time and the Kings win, or the league sides with the officiating crew, both in Memphis and New Jersey and allows Memphis’ win to stand.

If the NBA is in fact concerned with the integrity of their replay and protest system, the Kings have a shot at winning this appeal.  It is 2014 and there is enough technology to definitively say whether or not the officiating crew got the outcome of a game correct or not.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".