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Players union to file legal challenge to new technical crackdown

Oct 14, 2010, 9:45 PM EDT

Image (1) anthony_ref-thumb-250x168-10417.jpg for post 1634

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.

  1. soannoyed - Oct 14, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    More technical foul calls is just plain stupid, it’s probably the most idiotic new ruling in sports history.

  2. zblott - Oct 14, 2010 at 11:53 PM

    It was pointed out nearly 2 weeks ago that this was a terrible idea and would not help. Look here at the early analysis of the NBA’s technical foul stupidity:

  3. yuckabuck - Oct 15, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    This blog keeps missing the point about Garnett’s ejection. On the play immediately preceding the technical foul on Jermaine O’neal, Amare Stoudamire had made a basket and yelled “And One!” without any technical fouls called. Also, Ronny Turiaf had been blown for a foul earlier and through his hands in the air also without getting T’d up. These rules make is easier for the NBA’s already inconsistent referees to become even more inconsistent. A Celtic did what Turiaf did on an earlier night and was called for the technical, but Turiaf gets away with it. Then, Jermaine O’neal wants to talk to the referee and he gets the technical called on him. It doesn’t make sense and will make the league look even more fixed in the eyes of fans when they see their team hit with the technicals but not the other team.

  4. geo59 - Oct 15, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    I’ve been an NBA fan for over 50 years. I have to say that I find the motives for the Stern and Stu Jackson to be very suspicious. They claim they instituted this absurd rule because fans are annoyed about players complaining too much. They say that focus groups told them this. I’ve never been annoyed by players complaining. What annoys me is the increasingly poor officiating. Who are these annoyed fans and who are these focus groups? Are they the same so-called fans that are constantly calling NBA players thugs in the blogs? I smell a rat!
    I hope the players put a stop to this right now before the season starts. Officiating in professional sports is difficult and subjective. The refs make mistakes. In MLB if a team disagrees with a call the manager comes out on the field and the game stops. In football the teams have the option of appealing a call through instant replay because the NFL is not trying to pretend that the officials are perfect. It’s only in the NBA that Stern and his stooges have insisted on trying to pretend that refs are all-seeing and perfect. Now they’re trying to tell players that they must be robots and play the game with no emotion. This is an outrageous development. After watching the Boston-New York game I was so angry that I had visions of a team, any team, testing the limits of this new ridiculous rule. Make the officials eject every player on the team and see how Stern likes that.
    I’m delighted to hear that the players union is going to challenge this new rule. Maybe they should try to kill two birds with one stone and take this opportunity to point out that the real reason that players are complaining is because of lousy officiating. There are too many old dinosaur refs that make knee-jerk calls the same way they did 25 years ago. Even though these older refs are at least consistent, they’ve lost touch with today’s game. And there’s a slew of incompetent younger officials who are so inconsistent in the way they call the games that players cannot adjust and play. This is the real problem that the league should be addressing, instead of trying to control players facial expressions.

  5. jmclarkent - Oct 15, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    The NBA needs new leadership. Stern has been around much too long, I think that they need a fresh set of ideas.

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