During the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ win over the Nuggets on Friday, Matt Barnes swung his elbows a bit to clear some space, while he had possession of the ball and with Rudy Fernandez closely defending. It appeared in real time that Barnes may have made contact with Fernandez, in no small part due to the way that Rudy’s neck snapped backwards like he had just been punched in the face.
The referee immediately whistled Barnes for a technical, despite Barnes repeatedly pleading his case by saying,”I didn’t hit him.” On the telecast, Hubie Brown also thought the referee may have been duped by Fernandez.
“He misses him, but the referee probably thought from his angle that he hit him,” Brown says.
But despite Fernandez’s despicable effort, the referee did not believe that contact had been made.
Barnes would have been issued a personal foul in addition to the technical if he had in fact caught Fernandez in the face. Since there was no contact, the official was simply enforcing what is written in the Conduct section of the NBA rule book regarding the throwing of ‘bows (from Section V, paragraph d., no. 6):
“A technical foul shall be assessed for unsportsmanlike tactics such as: A deliberately-thrown elbow or any attempted physical act with no contact involved.”
So, good for the refs for getting it right. Now, onto Fernandez.
There’s no way to make this any clearer: Flopping is the scourge of professional sports. Saying that’s it’s somehow part of the game and that it’s up to the referees to determine what’s real and what isn’t is completely insane.
The officials have a hard enough job just getting the most basic of calls correct. They shouldn’t be put in a position where they’re trying to guess whether or not a player flying backwards did so as a result of contact, or did so simply to goad the referee into blowing the whistle.
Put simply, what do we want to see as sports fans? Players at the highest level of competition doing everything they can within the rules to win, or players faking contact on plays in order to trick the referees into making calls in their team’s favor?
Fernandez’s play was ridiculous, but within the rules. It would be nice if those rules were changed so that Fernandez would be the one receiving the technical on a play like this in the future.