NBA right to curb complaining, but what about replay?
Every year, the NBA comes up with certain "points of emphasis" for referees to enforce. A new initiative this season is a crackdown on player complaints, which has resulted in more technical fouls during the preseason.
The players' reaction to this change was rather predictable.
They're complaining about it.
Billy Hunter, executive director of the players association, released a statement last week outlining his feelings.
"The new unilateral rule changes are an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league's behalf," Hunter's statement read. "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."
Here's a dissenting opinion that shouldn't be controversial: Less complaining is good for the NBA.
Marginal players know they have to keep their mouth shut. But the league's stars have turned playing the crowd and working the officials into an art form.
Too many times someone like Manu Ginobili or Rip Hamilton will be called for a foul before high stepping to the other end of the court with a smile on his face to illustrate what a ridiculous ruling he'd just witnessed.
Probably 99 percent of the time, replays show the foul couldn't have been more obvious. The player just decided to show up the referee because he knew he could get away with it and he might get the benefit of the doubt next time.
To me, that's something the NBA could live without.
The league put together video examples of what is permitted and what should draw a technical foul. A player is allowed to react to a call and question the referee. If he waves his arm angrily or runs across the court to confront an official, that is supposed to be a technical foul.
This new philosophy could result in more technical fouls and ejections. Or the players could just learn to express their emotions in a reasonable manner. Doesn't sound too difficult, although Hunter believes otherwise.
"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 statement continued. "The changes were made without proper consultation with the Players Association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge."
Unfortunately, the league has done nothing to improve use of instant replay. I asked specifically about the infamous Bulls-Nets contest late last season. In the fourth quarter of a close game, Derrick Rose drove toward the basket and the ball flew out of bounds.
Referees ruled Bulls ball, which made sense. But then they checked the replay, only to discover Rose was the last player to touch the ball, because a Nets player reached in from behind and grabbed hold of Rose's right arm.
Since the replay showed Rose touched the ball last, possession was given to New Jersey. By rule, replays can only determine possession, not blatant fouls that were missed.
So the NBA has a system in place where replays actually are used to get a call wrong. In this instance, the referees checked the replay, obviously realized they blew the call, then looked like idiots by awarding the ball to a team that just committed a foul.
The Bulls-Nets game wasn't the only time I saw this happen last season.
Now I know, changing this rule could open up a gray area. The refs could see that Rose was fouled, but maybe in the background they also notice Brad Miller poking a Nets players in the eye. Where do they draw the line?
Well, if the idea is to get it right, the answer is obvious. If referees check for possession and see a foul call it.
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