• One Big Thing: Schrödinger’s Shot

    Stuck three. The clock reads 2.5 seconds. The inbounds pass is tipped on the way, but it lands in your hands with the clock ticking. Two dribbles and you rise up with Matt Barnes uncomfortably close. It’s a shot, yes, but not a true shot. Something between a jumper and a heave. It falls, and we’ve got overtime on tap.

    Unless, of course, we don’t.

    Have you heard of Erwin Schrödinger?

    Born in 1887, Schrödinger was a Nobel Prize winning physicist who specialized in quantum mechanics. He’s most famous for his thought experiment involving a cat in a box which he used to illustrate his issues with the idea of quantum superposition that supposes two quantum states can be added together and form a valid state.

    Essentially, our boy Erwin theoretically placed a cat in a box with some radioactive material and poison to show that superposition will have to succumb to one reality or another. If the idea of superposition holds, at one point the cat will be simultaneously alive and dead. Whether it’s either state depends on when you look in the box, but it doesn’t make sense that the cat can be both alive and dead at once.

    If that doesn’t make sense to you (especially the quantum stuff), don’t worry. In essence, the cat can’t be some weird in-between state of okay-ness. We won’t know what the true result is until we see for ourselves.

    Unless you’re in Secaucus. You can go back and declare a made shot as too late, despite all indications to the parties involved. The shot was both good and not good until we got final word from the replay center. Then we knew for sure, and it didn’t really jive with what we know about how the rules work.

    The ruling to simply deny Terrence Ross a game tying bucket and consider the game over is insane. For the sake of full disclosure, I am a Raptors fan. It doesn’t change the fact that the way the officials handled the final 2.4 seconds of action makes absolutely no sense.

    It’s deeply inconsistent with the rules as they’re administered throughout the rest of the game and calls into question a host of other practices that we often take for granted.

    At any other point in the game, when the clock doesn’t start on time the officials stop play and reset. The team with the ball simply throws it back in play with the correct time on the clock. Why is it that in this instance the Raptors were not afforded that reset? At bare minimum, they should be given those 2.4 seconds to operate.

    The replay center figured that the play took 2.5 seconds to complete and that the timekeeper error allowed it to unfold within the 2.4 that showed on the game clock. That’s totally fair and it seems nigh impossible that the league would somehow come up with and report an incorrect timeline of events. I have no doubts that the play took 2.5 seconds, and it speaks to the capabilities of the replay center that they can get the exact time on these kind of events.

    Though the fact that they could does beg the question- Why are the final two minutes more important than the rest of the game? I understand it’s about game flow, but there are probably a handful of seconds lost to similar errors throughout every game. When games can come down to a few tenths on the clock, that can add up in a big way. Clearly the game’s closing moments are considered “crunch time” and whatnot, but two points at the buzzer are worth the same as two points in the first quarter.

    Again, scrutinizing a semi-arbitrary time frame with far more intensity then the other 46 minutes of action is an issue of practicality; it just serves to underscore how odd the practices are in these situations, particularly when they’re bungled as badly as they were in Sacramento.

    Circling back, it also seems deeply unfair that Ross is penalized for the timekeeper’s mistake. While he may have seen the ball get tipped, he can only operate based on the clock he sees. To expect him to account for the errors of arena staff is unfair and to punish him for it only compounds the issue.

    There’s also the optics of a home team’s arena staff making errors that happen to result in the road team getting the short end of the stick. I absolutely do not believe that this was anything more than an honest mistake, though the precedent set by this call is a potentially dangerous one.

    Some conspiracy theories are floating around, but spare me the “NBA is anti-Canada” line of thinking. The idea that the league would actively try to hamper a team in one of its five largest markets, a conference finalist whose success has pushed basketball’s popularity to new heights in a whole separate country, to the benefit of one of its most dysfunctional franchises is completely asinine. Most conspiracy theories are.

    The Raptors will appeal, of course, but it won’t work. The idea of opening up an arena for 2.4 seconds is good for a chuckle but it really does seem like Toronto will have to accept a loss on this one. That’s suboptimal for their standings, obviously, but it’s bigger than that.

    It’s not about whether he makes or misses on another attempt. It’s about the inconsistent and curious process that the NBA chose to follow.

    Ross made the shot. The cat was alright. The clock started late. The cat was not alright. It can’t be both, and it wasn’t. Everything was fine until they went to the headsets and we closed the box.

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