Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Adam Silver says NBA does discipline referees, doesn’t publicize it

Dan Patrick reacts to Kevin Durant’s intro press conference with the Suns, where Durant talks about his time in Brooklyn, and the former Nets Big 3’s exodus over the last 12 months.

In the wake of a couple of high-profile referee errors this season — most infamously a missed call when Jayson Tatum fouled LeBron James with the game on the line — there have been calls from players and fans to punish the referees. If players get fines and suspensions for protesting calls, what about officials when they make a mistake?

They do face discipline, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said to Sage Steele on ESPN’s SportsCenter, but said that unlike player fines those are not made public.

“We don’t publicize discipline for officials. We don’t think that will be appropriate,” Silver said Friday in an interview with ESPN’s Sage Steele on SportsCenter. “But their assignments are affected by the quality of their calls, whether or not they progress into the playoffs and then round by round is impacted by the accuracy of their calls and their demeanor on the floor. So there is a system for overseeing and making those judgements about officials. But more to your earlier point about getting the calls right, that’s again not a new issue.”

As for why replay didn’t step in specifically when Tatum fouled LeBron, that was because it was a no-call, Silver said.

“I know some people in that particular call you mentioned in that Celtics-Lakers game were upset that there was no opportunity for replay,” Silver said. “Many people focused on the coach not having another challenge. But remember in our league, you can’t challenge a non-call. And there’s a lot of difficulty there when you get into non-call. You could suggest every moment of a game is a non-call when a call isn’t being made in a way.”

Silver also said it creates a slippery slope — if you review the Tatum foul on LeBron, what about another missed call 15 seconds or a minute earlier? How many interruptions to the flow of the game do fans want? Do fans want the referees at the replay center to notify the game officials of a mistake, stop play and go back a possession or two to get a call right, then replay those 30+ seconds?

Silver admitted they are still trying to figure out the best way to use replay and the challenge system.

NBA officials are graded on their calls throughout games — only the final two minutes of close games are made public — and those evaluations are used to get the best officials on the court in the playoffs and Finals. Meaning yes, Scott Foster, Tony Brothers and the other referees that draw fans’ venom are the NBA’s best.