Wizards

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

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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.

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