Players union to file legal challenge to new technical crackdown

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Well done NBA League office.

You issue an edict on players complaining aimed in part to stop making referees the focus of games — and you take it so far you put the focus back on the referees.

In the wake of players complaints about referees being told to hand out technicals to any player at any time who overtly question a call (such as punching the air) or discuss a call too long, the Players Association released this statement Thursday night.

The new unilateral rule changes are an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league’s behalf. We have not seen any increase in the level of “complaining” to the officials and we believe that players as a whole have demonstrated appropriate behavior toward the officials.

Worse yet, to the extent the harsher treatment from the referees leads to a stifling of the players’ passion and exuberance for their work, we fear these changes may actually harm our product. The changes were made without proper consultation with the Players Association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge.

It’s not just players who are complaining, this is what Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said prior to Thursday night’s Clipper game (via Ben Maller’s twitter).

“Its gonna be difficult, will probably effect the outcome of games, I want my players to play with emotion.”

“The rules are the riules, you better follow them, I try to control my Italian temper.”

The league said it instituted the crackdown after focus groups and market research said people were tired of players complaining after every call. League officials have gone to every team and explained the new line in the sand on what will and will not lead to a technical.

But so far that line has been enforced about as consistently as block/charge calls. Wednesday night Boston’s Jermaine O’Neal got a technical for calmly trying to discuss a call with a referee. Then as New York was shooting that technical Kevin Garnett got two in quick succession for questioning that technical call (and likely using special language). Overall that game had four techs called in 16 seconds, one to the Knicks Timofey Mozgov for mumbling something in his native Russian.

The night before, a technical on San Antonio’s George Hill on a call with less than 30 second remaining in a two-point game almost changed the outcome of that contest. Hill was demonstrative but walked away from the referee.

The NBA’s problem is where they drew the initial line. If you want to eject KG when he gets up in a referees face for a call, to ahead. If you want to hit Kobe with a T when he goes off — as he is prone to do — then nobody will complain. Rasheed Wallace, Dwight Howard and others earned their technicals the last few seasons and the line could be moved a little and most fans would welcome it.

But when you move the line so far in the other direction that a player calmly trying to discuss a call gets a technical, you’ve gone too far. When players get technicals for being emotional with the game on the line, you’ve gone too far. Maybe David Stern and the league expected that the referees would drift back to a saner spot on these calls as the season moved on, but why not just draw a hard line in the sand there in the first place?

Instead, you’ve made the referees the focus of fan and player wrath again. Well done.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.