Danny Crawford, Joey Crawford named best referees in anonymous player poll

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There are 30 fan bases in the NBA convinced that Joey Crawford has it in for them — he hates their team and makes calls to spite them.

NBA players don’t see it that way — they think he’s one of the best referees in the game.

The Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner interviewed nearly 40 NBA players, coaches, and assistant coaches to compile a list of the best and worst referees. The top three best?

1. Danny Crawford
2. Joey Crawford (not related)
3. Monty McCutchen

Here’s what players had to say, including about Joey Crawford who his walking away from the game after this season.

“Danny is good because he’ll talk to you,” another player said. “He doesn’t take it personal if you question him, as long as you’re not tripping or your tone is not all messed up. If you’re asking a question, even if you’re questioning his call, he doesn’t take it like it’s an affront to his manhood. He might tell you some stuff like, ‘You’re wrong.’ But he’ll treat you like a man, like a human being.”

“Once upon a time, you couldn’t talk to Joey,” an NBA head coach said. “He’s cleaned that up — big time. He runs it when he’s on the floor now. For me, that’s big. I don’t care if it’s at home or on the road, he’s not going to get intimidated by the crowd. To me, that’s big with officials. You have guys that are homers, where the home crowd can sway them. But not Joey.”

The three worst officials in the poll?

1. Scott Foster
2. Lauren Holtkamp
3. Marc Davis

Comments on those three:

“You can’t talk to him. He’s never wrong,” one player complained about Foster. “I like refs where they say, ‘You know what, I made a mistake. I saw it at halftime. You were right.’ But Scott Foster thinks he never makes a mistake. The players see the stats of how he is on the road. He always helps the road team out. He loves to stick it to teams.”

“Take the female part aside, she’s just new,” a player said. “But with her, I thought she took it a little bit personal, thinking players talk to her the wrong way. When you’re young, like an NBA player or a ref, you’ve got to come in seeking knowledge. You can’t come in blowing the whistle. She came in like, ‘I’m a female and you’re not going to talk a certain way to me.’ No one called her a bad name. No one disrespected her. It’s her terrible calls.”

The NBA does have a referee evaluation and training program — these officials are scrutinized and told what they did right and wrong. But just like at your job, some people deal with criticism well and adjust, others not so much.

But if you notice it’s not simply the quality of calls the players care about, it’s do they feel heard — can they talk to you about a bad call and not get run for it. Part of that is tone and how players approach it — whine like Blake Griffin and referees are more likely to tune you out — but some officials don’t even want that. They want the control, and that’s bad for the game.