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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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5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

5 observations about the Wizards at the midway point of the 2019-20 season

The Wizards' 29-point loss to the Raptors on Friday night was the 41st game of the year, meaning Washington's 2019-20 regular season is officially halfway through. 

With that in mind, here are five observations from the season so far; some expected and some unexpected...

They are who we thought they were

In some ways, this season has gone exactly how most thought it would. Bradley Beal has been an All-Star level player, but poor defense and an inexperienced roster around him has led to a team headed safely towards the lottery. 

That's what Vegas thought would happen, as evidenced by over/under win totals that stayed around 28.5. And that's what most reasonable predictions had them being; a team with intriguing talent that was probably a year away from contending for the playoffs again.

Sheppard has found some guys

The early returns on the Tommy Sheppard era are good and that should be seen as one of the most important positives of this season so far. Just look at the gems he has acquired in a relatively short period of time as general manager. He drafted Rui Hachimura, a plug-and-play guy, with the ninth overall pick. He got Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga in trades basically for nothing. 

He got Garrison Mathews out of nowhere. He signed Ish Smith instead of giving more money to Tomas Satoransky. And even his minor deals with guys like Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have impressed to a degree.
It is very early in his tenure, but Sheppard is showing he has the ability to find diamonds in the rough, a skill that is one of the biggest separators between GMs.

It has also become evident on social media that Sheppard is gaining some clout among fans. Given the previous distrust in the front office, that is definitely worth noting.

The injuries have been ridiculous

Though injuries happen to every team and they are ultimately no excuse, the health of the Wizards has undoubtedly been a major part of their season to this point. They have had as many as eight players missing at times due to injury, or in other words more than half of their roster.

That has included two hardship exceptions and the players acquired as a result were even starting at times. Their best players have been hurt, even Beal who had previously played 194 straight games. Lately, they have been getting healthy, but the rash of injuries was enough to leave its mark on their 2019-20 campaign as a whole.

Beal may or may not be sold on the future

Though this season has mostly gone as expected, it has been fair to wonder how Beal has handled it all, given he is far and away their best player. He signed a contract extension to be part of this, but he's used to winning more games and it's only natural for him to be frustrated with how things have gone.

Beal backed up those theories with his comments this week about the team's culture, and the whole situation is going to be worth watching closely moving forward. The Wizards' best player appears skeptical and anxious about the franchise's future. Whether they can match their timeline to contend with his remains to be seen.

The Wall thing is going to get interesting

This was also pretty easy to call going into this season. Now over 11 months into his recovery from a rupture Achilles, John Wall is making steady progress towards a return and the debates of whether he should come back this season or not are coming into focus. 

The discourse was taken up a notch recently with NBC Sports Washington's report about him playing in three-on-three scrimmages, and then again days after with video of those games. Though he isn't quite ready to come back, he is looking good and there are still three months remaining in the Wizards' season. 

Will he be ready one month from now, or two? Even if he is, will the Wizards bring him back or wait until next season? Those are major questions with no easy answers.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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