LeBron James has complained he sometimes does not get calls when driving the lane because he is strong enough to power through contact the referees ignore it. Shaquille O’Neal had the same complaint during his peak — and he was right. Shaq got hacked and it was ignored because he was overpowering defenders.
Julius Randle and Tom Thibodeau were frustrated with the officiating in the Knicks’ loss to the Nets on Tuesday night. Randle was awarded just two free throws all game, and the Nets shot 25 times from the charity stripe compared to 12 for the Knicks.
However, one postgame comment by Randle turned heads:
Julius Randle said he was told by officials he's not getting calls because he's stronger than defenders and contact is not affecting him:
"That's not how you're supposed to referee a game."
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) December 1, 2021
You can see video of Randle’s comment above, but here is the heart of the quote.
“I don’t know what they’re watching or what they’re seeing. As aggressive as I played, attacking the paint, I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people. And that is an answer that I got today…
“[The referees] said because certain contact doesn’t affect me like it affects other players. Because I am stronger, they miss the calls….
“It pisses me off even more. To be honest with you, because that is not how you officiate the game. You know, with basketball, usually the smaller players are guarding bigger players they get away with a lot more but certain things are a little bit more blatant. You just slap a guy, I don’t care who it is, it’s going to affect him.”
Randle is right — that is not how a game should be officiated, and if a referee actually admitted that bias to Randle is surprising. Maybe the official was trying to say they need to be more aware because Randle’s strength means contact, and fouls are not as obvious, but that doesn’t make things better. A foul is a foul, and Rande should be rewarded with and-1s when he does fight through for a bucket.
The league should not fine Randle for these comments — he was relaying what the referee told him. The discussion of what is wrong should start with the officials.
Randle got off to a slow start this season compared to his All-NBA campaign a season ago, still averaging 19.4 points a game (down from 24.1) and 10.1 rebounds a game. The biggest difference is his 3-point shot, now at 32.5% on the season (41.1% last season). Thibodeau is hoping the changes in the starting lineup light a fire under Randle again.