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.