The Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha is the kind of player that can get under your skin — he’s long, he’s an aggressive defender who challenges everything, and he can be physical if he needs to be.
Apparently, he had bothered Carmelo Anthony. Sefolosha had been in ‘Melo’s face for chunks of the game, and the two were battling for a rebound in the later part of the second quarter in Atlanta when, as the play moved away, Anthony flung his arm and hit Sefolosha in the head. It was obvious, although it wasn’t clear that the officials saw it at first. There was a quick technical foul called, then a double technical because Sefolosha shoved Anthony back.
Finally, the referees reviewed the play, saw the shot to the head, and Anthony was tossed.
As he should have been — the NBA is cracking down on blows to the face and head, and that unquestionably was one (I wouldn’t call it a punch, but it was a shot). ‘Melo earned the shower. Whether or not it was intentional he was gone — and you can bet the farm after the game Anthony will say it wasn’t.
Anthony left the game with 10 points on nine shots, plus five rebounds.
Kevin Durant generated a lot of conversation by backing the NBA referees. The NBA’s two-minute report on the Warriors loss to the Cavaliers on Christmas Day said the referees missed Richard Jefferson tripping Durant, it should have been a foul. A lot of players would have said “I told you so,” but Durant defended the NBA’s officials and ripped the league’s two-minute reports.
Durant has a lot of people in his corner — Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, and Stan Van Gundy are among the coaches who have questioned the reports; Dwyane Wade said he “hates” them, LeBron James is with him, and plenty of other players have called the reports a mistake.
But the reports aren’t going anywhere — and I don’t think they should. Adam Silver started them as a counter to the David Stern-era policy that the league almost never admitted referee errors. Silver wants transparency, even if that shows off a little of the dirt of the league (although I’d say the reports primarily show the league’s refs get things right, that’s just not what anyone focuses on). Personally, if the choices are no information, or information that shows the referees are human, I want that info.
That’s what I cover in this latest PBT Extra.
Kevin Durant created a stir when he defended the NBA’s officials and ripped the league’s two-minute reports, but he is far from alone in that sentiment. His own coach Steve Kerr has questioned them. Gregg Popovich called them “odd,” and Stan Van Gundy is not a fan. Dwyane Wade said he “hates” them. The only people who hate them more are in the referees union. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, the prevailing sentiment among players and coaches (and plenty of front office executives) is they don’t like the reports.
Now add LeBron James to that list. He was asked Wednesday at practice about the reports and said this, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I’m not a fan of the two-minute report,” James said after the Cavs practiced on Wednesday. “I think it discredits what the referees are doing for 48 minutes. If that’s the case, you might as well do a 48-minute report.
“It’s not fair to the referees that you only talk about the final two minutes of the game and not the first 46. There’s plays that’s missed, there’s plays that called throughout 48 minutes that don’t get talked about.”
There are some executives around the league who want to see a 48-minute report. That strikes me as a disaster waiting to happen.
It’s easy to see why the referees don’t like them. With the players, I get the sentiment — the reports don’t change anything. It exposes the officials and publicly scolds them, but the NBA is not going to order the final 3.4 seconds of the Warriors/Cavaliers game be replayed with Durant getting free throws. The result doesn’t change.
Still, I’d rather have them than not. Before in the David Stern NBA, the league almost never admitted referee errors — even obvious ones in big games — and that opened the door to charges of games being fixed. While that door isn’t closed — Hello Paul George — Adam Silver has pushed the idea of transparency to help fight the tin foil hat brigade. I’d rather know what the NBA saw and thought, why certain calls were made. If the option is no information, or information that shows the referees are human, I want that info. To me, those reports primarily show how officials get tough calls right far more than wrong, and that they also are human.
But it will be interesting to see if Adam Silver responds to the push back on those reports.
“I’ve been vocal to the point where the league issues [a statement], ‘Hey, we missed a call. Hey, we missed that.’ Officials do it during games [saying], ‘I missed that call, I missed this call. We’re sorry. We’re sorry.’ It’s getting repetitive. They see it, they know what’s going on. They know what’s a foul. They know what’s not a foul. It comes down from somewhere else how these games are going, I believe…
“Since I’ve been in this jersey we’ve always fought this battle,” George said. “Ever since I’ve been playing, ever since I’ve been in this jersey we’ve fought this battle. Maybe the league has teams they like so they can give them the benefit of the doubt. We’re the little brother of the league. We’re definitely the little brother of the league.”
The moment Paul George said that following the Pacers’ Christmas Day loss to the Bulls, he had to know a fine was coming. That landed on his doorstep Wednesday — the NBA fined him $15,000 for “public criticism of officiating.”
His coach, Nate McMillan, picked up his own $10,000 fine for these comments after the game.
“(The referees have) got to give us more respect… No fouls. We only shot 10 free throws. Paul shot one free throw the entire game. He played 39 minutes. This is the second game where he’s getting a lot of grabbing, a lot of holding. (Jimmy) Butler shoots 12 free throws tonight. I mean, they’re getting away with a lot of grabbing on Paul and they’ve got to call the game both ways.”
Hopefully, the Pacers feel they get their money’s worth out of this. Of course, they lost to the Bulls because of 16 turnovers, and because of their offense going stagnant with too much isolation too often (something that happens more than it should to the Pacers). They are a couple games below .500, disappointed and frustrated, and so they are blaming everyone and everything for their woes. It happens. But their biggest problem is not the officiating.
George Karl is trying to sell a lot of books.
He says in an interview with New York Magazine that he wants to coach again in the NBA. That bridge looks to be on fire right now.
That interview covers some of the controversies from the book, specifically calling Carmelo Anthony and other players of his generation (and younger) AAU babies and saying that his upbringing without a father, along with those of Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith hurt them. Martin and Smith fired back, as did others, but Anthony took the high road.
Speaking to New York Magazine, Karl tried to clarify his position.
But here’s what I’ll say now: Melo is a hell of a player, the best offensive player I’ve ever coached. I owe him as much as anyone for my having a great record. But there’s a new generation of players interested in personal branding and gaining money and power off the court, and that’s all new to me. There were too many times with Melo when what was going on off the court was more important than what was happening on the court. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. That kind of thing bothered me just the other night.
Some will praise Karl’s old-school stance, to me it shows a guy out of touch. Not just with the modern NBA player but the modern world.
Does Anthony care about his off-the-court brand? Yes. So does LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and I could go on and on — but they don’t let that impact their play on the court. Guys today put in more time on conditioning and off-season work than most did in Karl’s era. Are you telling me Kobe didn’t leave it all out there? Same with Anthony. He has flaws in his game no doubt, but those are not about his shoe line or his clothing lines or his other business collaborations and endorsements. They are about his game, and Anthony unquestionably has put in the work to get his game to the future Hall of Famer level it is.
Karl — and Phil Jackson — came up in an era when players played, many made so little money they had second jobs, and the ones that did have money hired white guys in suits to handle it for them. Endorsements were handled by agents and players just followed along. Today’s players want to control their money, their image, their brand — as they should. That’s just being a good businessman. Karl doesn’t have to like it, but his distaste for it (along with his ego) is part of the reason he rubs so many of his former players the wrong way.
Karl also says in the interview he is an NBA conspiracy theorist on referees. Maybe he’d get along well with Paul George.