There is a new member on Trail Blazers, but Friday’s transaction had nothing to do with adding shooting, perimeter defense or veteran leadership.
Still, the addition of Don Vaden gives the Blazers something no other NBA team currently has: a former NBA referee to serve as a consultant who offers everything from education on league rules, background on referee personalities and tendencies, and views into how to avoid, or draw, fouls.
Although Vaden signed on Friday, he has been around the Blazers since January and has already offered these insights and coaching tips to players and coaches:
*Vaden has instructed rookie Zach Collins that his defensive style of vertically challenging shots – which often drew fouls early in the season – is fundamentally sound and will eventually earn the respect of the officials.
*Ed Davis, who has been called for a rash of pushing fouls underneath the basket, needs to keep his arms closer to his body if he intends to get away with the move.
*And if you thought Damian Lillard has increasingly tried to draw fouls while attempting three-pointers, it’s because Vaden admits with a sheepish chuckle: “That’s being taught.’’
“He’s going to be a tremendous resource,’’ coach Terry Stotts said.
Vaden has 30 years of experience between the NBA and WNBA. He spent 15 seasons as an NBA referee, retiring in 2003, and spent 15 years in the WNBA, where he worked as the director of referees and their officiating programs.
The position is unique in today’s game, but not groundbreaking. Vaden says the Houston Rockets years ago employed a former referee for a similar role. Vaden says his company, Interactive Consulting, is open to signing with other teams.
Vaden was at Thursday’s Blazers-Pacers game and offered the team a few observations and explanations. While CJ McCollum prepared to shoot a jumper, a foul was called under the basket as a Pacers defender wrestled with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic. McCollum made his shot, but after review, the basket was disallowed and play resumed after an inbound.
Vaden explained that the basket would have counted had McCollum been in the upward shooting motion of his shot when the foul occurred, and Nurkic would have been awarded a free throw.
Also, he pointed out how a player should have been called for an offensive foul while going up for a layin, because his off-ball arm was extended beyond a 90-degree angle.
And he also eased the mind of Blazers guard Pat Connaughton, who thought he was fouled on a shot. Vaden confirmed he was.
He said he hopes these types of observations and comment can help clear the minds of players and better educate them why fouls are, or are not, called.
Vaden’s hire comes at a time when tensions between players and referees have escalated. He said he hopes that escalation doesn’t reach the Blazers.
“I look at it this way: We are in the same office. They have to be able to work together and they have to figure it out,’’ Vaden said.
“There is enough problems in the league between referees and players that I don’t want it to happen here, and I don’t want it to happen within the league. So the more we can help figure that piece out, and open the lines of communication, the better off we will be.’’