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J. Michael: NBA stars criticize officiating but there are no easy fixes

J. Michael: NBA stars criticize officiating but there are no easy fixes

The last two-minute reports from the NBA are viewed as a refreshing attempt at transparency under the guidance of relatively new commissioner Adam Silver by some, and to others they're an annoyance because they don't go far enough and only serve to further agitate players and coaches with what-could've-been questions.

Kevin Durant and Paul George made strong statements about officiating for different reasons. Both should prove costly. Tuesday, Durant launched into a four-letter tirade over the process being unfair to game officials after the league determined he was fouled on the final possession of Golden State's one-point loss to Cleveland on Sunday. And then there was a technical foul call on LeBron James that was missed. 

From Durant, via Warriors Insider Monte Poole of CSNBayarea.com:

I think it’s (BS) that the NBA throws the refs under the bus like that. This happened to be in our favor – it’s not even in our favor; we don’t get the win – but to say that I got fouled and the tech . . . just move on. You don’t throw the refs under the bus like that, because the next game that group of refs, or whoever it is, they’re going to come out and they’re going to ref the game and they’re going to be tense when they’re reffing the game and they’re going to try to get every play right.

George, who is in town with the Indiana Pacers to play the Wizards on Wednesday, is certain to get hit with a hefty fine for his comments after Monday's 90-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls:

I've been fined multiple times. I've been vocal to the point where the league issues (a statement), 'Hey, we missed a call. Hey, we missed that.' Officials do it during games (saying), 'I missed that call, I missed this call. We're sorry. We're sorry.' It's getting repetitive. They see it, they know what's going on. They know what's a foul. They know what's not a foul. It comes down from somewhere else how these games are going, I believe.

The second part of George's quote is certain to warrant the biggest reason for whatever fine he gets. He's not complaining about a particular call, which is reason enough, but insinuating that small market teams like the Pacers don't get a fair shake:

Ever since I've been playing, ever since I've been in this jersey we've fought this battle. Maybe the league has teams they like so they can give them the benefit of the doubt. We're the little brother of the league.

All of this is a bit eye-popping. George, it could be argued, personally benefits from "superstar calls." The Wizards lost by one point last season in a game in which he was sent to the line for free throws with three seconds left. When the L2M report was released then, the league supported the foul call though more contact than that is usually warranted at the end of close games. 

There's this unspoken/unwritten rule to let players decide the game at the end – not whistles – and the inconsistent messages have rubbed some the wrong way and led to endless (and sometimes baseless) speculation. That would explain the no-call for Durant, who was clearly pushed to the floor by Richard Jefferson. It doesn't explain the call George received in that game vs. the Wizards, a season-changing loss that everyone pointed to as the final nail in the coffin of then-coach Randy Wittman's run. 

John Wall, for instance, already has eight technical fouls, which is tied for the most in the league this season. In the L2MR from the Wizards' 107-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, the league determined only one call was missed and it didn't directly impact the outcome. Giannis Antetokounmpo traveled in front of the Wizards' bench with 1:26 left.

There are plenty of calls that impact games long before the final two minutes. What about the touch fouls called that sends a player to the bench with three fouls in the first half, or gives him a fourth foul early in the third? What about a player such as Jefferson being hit with a technical foul for winking at Durant in the fourth quarter because it was considered a taunt?

The list goes on and there are no easy answers because there are so many 50-50 calls that take place at a breakneck speed in real time. Silver should be commended for trying to take the NBA in a new direction with transparency, his refreshing demeanor, and honesty. But his work is far from done. 

The conversation should be about how great Christmas Day games were for the league with Durant's matchup with the Cavs as the bright spot. Instead, two days later, it's only about what went wrong. The dark cloud remains.

MORE WIZARDS: Like Wizards, LeBron also reportedly annoyed with Giannis

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2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

2018 NBA All-Star Saturday night: TV and live stream info, things to watch for dunk contest, three-point contest

The 2018 NBA All-Star Saturday Night is here with the three-point contest, dunk contest and skills competition set for Los Angeles.

Here is all you need to know: TV and live stream info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

2018 NBA ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Where: Staples Center
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT
Online with no cable TV: fuboTV (try for free)

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

Skills competition

Participants: Lou Williams, Clippers; Jamal Murray, Nuggets; Al Horford, Celtics; Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets; Joel Embiid, Sixers; Buddy Hield, Kings; Lauri Markkanen, Bulls; Andre Drummond, Pistons

What to know: This year's crop has a fascinating mix of guards and big men and don't sleep on the seven-footers. Embiid in particular has a unique skillset for his size. Still, it's tough to beat the guards. Watch out for Dinwiddie, who is the best passer of the bunch.

RELATED: BETTING ODDS FOR DUNK CONTEST, THREE-POINT CONTEST

Three-point contest

Participants: Klay Thompson, Warriors; Eric Gordon, Rockets; Devin Booker, Suns; Paul George, Thunder; Wayne Ellington, Heat; Bradley Beal, Wizards; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Tobias Harris, Clippers

What to know: Thompson and Gordon enter the contest as past champions, as Thompson won it in 2016 and Gordon took it home last year. Thompson has the best three-point percentage among the group and is the favorite, but watch out for Beal, a past runner-up, and George who has the second best percentage. Also, Booker is one of the game's best young players and has a very smooth stroke from three.

RELATED: WIZARDS/BULLETS HISTORY ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

Dunk contest

Participants: Dennis Smith Jr.; Mavericks; Donovan Mitchell, Jazz; Larry Nance Jr., Cavaliers; Victor Oladipo, Pacers

What to know: This is all about the rookies, Smith and Mitchell, who most are predicting to win. Oladipo has been in the contest before, but didn't win. He's also the only All-Star of the bunch. Nance is the only guy who isn't a guard and his father won it back in 1984. It will be interesting to see if he does some sort of nod to his old man, now 34 years later.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

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Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

Looking back at the most memorable Wizards/Bullets moments on All-Star Saturday Night

With Bradley Beal set for the three-point contest at the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend, let's take a look back at some of the most memorable moments for Wizards and Bullets players on All-Star Saturday night.

The franchise can boast past winners of the three-point and dunk contest, but there have also been some crushing defeats.

PODCAST: ALL-STAR WEEKEND PREVIEW, WIZARDS AT THE BREAK 

2014 DUNK CONTEST: WALL STEALS THE SHOW

John Wall has accomplished a lot in his career and that includes a dunk contest title back in 2014, the only dunk contest won by a Wizards or Bullets player. Wall took home the crown amid a crowded field of participants, the last dunk contest that featured six players: Paul George, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore and Terrence Ross. Ross was the defending champion. 

Wall dropped the mic with a dunk over former Wizards mascot 'G-Man.' After the dunk, he famously did the Nae Nae dance with George.

2014 THREE-POINT CONTEST: BEAL COMES IN SECOND

On Saturday night, Beal will do his best to avenge the loss he took in his first stab at the three-point contest. Beal fell just short in a stacked group that included former winners Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The winner was Marco Belinelli, who needed a bonus round to finish it off. That was because Beal hit his final six shots in the last round to force an overtime round. It was one of the closest three-point contests ever.

RELATED: BEAL A HEAVY UNDERDOG IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

1996 THREE-POINT CONTEST: LEGLER WINS IT ALL

The Wizards do have one three-point contest winner, Tim Legler who captured the crown in 1996. Many may know Legler for his broadcasting career, but he was a very good shooter in 10 NBA seasons, four of which were in Washington. 

Legler beat out some of the best sharpshooters of the 90s including Dennis Scott, Steve Kerr, Glen Rice and Hubert Davis. Legler tried to defend his crown the following year, but lost out to Kerr.

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

2011 DUNK CONTEST: MCGEE WAS ROBBED

Wall was the only Wizards player to win the dunk contest, but an argument could be made that JaVale McGee should have won it back in 2011. That was the year Blake Griffin won the title by jumping over a car. Griffin jumped over the hood, which many said wasn't exactly the same as jumping over the highest point of the car. I, who have approximately an 11-inch vertical leap, thought it was a bunch of malarkey.

That's not why McGee was robbed, though. He was robbed because Serge Ibaka appeared to steal his dunk. Video surfaced ahead of the contest of McGee practicing a dunk where he did a windmill slam while grabbing a piece of paper from the net with his mouth. Ibaka then did a very similar dunk in the contest itself. McGee admitted in an interview during the contest that Ibaka did the same dunk, so he had to switch it up. Who knows what would have happened if McGee did it instead of Ibaka. McGee, however, still put on a show including one slam where he dunked two basketballs.

RELATED: 

2007 THREE-POINT CONTEST: ARENAS COMES UP SHORT

Gilbert Arenas had a tough run in the three-point contest, as he finished as the runner-up in back-to-back years, 2006 and 2007. He lost to Dirk Nowitzki in 2006 and Jason Kapono in 2007.

It was in 2007, though, that Arenas wore the Wizards' gold alternate jersey (they were awesome, don't let anyone tell you differently) and finished the final round shooting threes one-handed once he realized he had lost. Arenas was one of the best personalities in the NBA at the time and that was on full display.