SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Derrick Talton clearly could tell that Utah Jazz forward Mehmet Okur sank his foul shot during a recent NBA game at the new Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
The season ticket holder wouldn't have been so sure last year, when the shot clock mounted atop the backboard at his end of Charlotte Coliseum obscured his view of the other end of the court.
Talton sees nothing but net this season, thanks to new see-through shot clocks recently given a thumbs-up by the league.
"It makes a big difference," Talton said. "Now you can see if they make it — which you couldn't last year."
The shot clocks, developed by South Dakota-based scoreboard maker Daktronics Inc., were born of an idea from a New Jersey Nets season ticket holder, said Steve Hellmuth, the NBA's senior vice president of operations and technology.
The fan e-mailed NBA commissioner David Stern, wondering if there was a technology that could improve his view at Continental Airlines Arena. Hellmuth said the new design is a big improvement, especially for fans in lower seats that typically sell out.
"All of a sudden, they're seeing the entire action on the court," Hellmuth said.
The previous shot clocks were encased in metal boxes.
The new two-sided, backboard-mounted clocks measure 2 1/2 feet square and feature light-emitting diodes (LEDs) sandwiched between two clear pieces of polycarbonate. The 13-inch red shot-clock numbers, and 7-inch amber digits showing time left in the period, can be read from both sides.
Bobcats season ticket holder Sharon Wilcox said she now easily can follow the action second by second.
"Last year, you ended up counting the seconds as soon as they got the ball," she said. "Now I can look up and see it."
Wilcox hails another benefit: She's sometimes able to see her friends seated behind the backboard at the far end of the court.
The NBA tested the new shot clocks during last year's Memphis Grizzlies games at FedExForum. The Philadelphia 76ers and Bobcats installed them this year, and Hellmuth said the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat are looking at replacing their clocks this season.
He expects all NBA teams will be using them within the next three years.
"We're encouraging teams to do it," Hellmuth said. "At some point, we might require the teams to go to it."
Mark Steinkamp, marketing and sales support manager for Daktronics, said the company has been working with the NBA on the project for a couple of years. It wasn't just a matter of replacing metal with a clear surface, he said.
Engineers had to redesign the circuitry to which the LEDs connect, Steinkamp said.
"It's just nicer-looking," he said. "It doesn't look as bulky. It looks more high-tech."
Daktronics workers also had to make sure the clocks — which cost several thousand dollars — were built to withstand the rigors of an NBA game, said Randy Uehran, a Daktronics project engineer.
Their tests involved hurling basketballs at them from half court and shooting others from a cannon designed by students at South Dakota State University.
The 24-second shot clock made its NBA debut in 1954, initially as a timepiece placed at the corners of the court. It was the brainchild of Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals, who was looking to speed up the game and prevent teams from stalling.
The league eventually mounted shot clocks atop the backboards, and they've been the last remaining viewing obstruction since the NBA adopted transparent backboards, Hellmuth said.
Because the new shot clocks are only 3 1/2 inches thick, the league had to add smaller, sideline-facing versions to the poles behind the backboards so players shooting from the corners can see the countdown.
"That's also there for the fans as well," Hellmuth said.
Hellmuth said the clocks are designed to hold a camera and cable mounts. He said the angle they provide has become a signature shot for high-definition television broadcasts.
The new technology also is trickling down to the college ranks.
Steinkamp said Kansas, Indiana, Cincinnati, South Dakota State and Virginia Commonwealth have installed the new shot clocks for this season, and other schools are looking into it.