In case you aren’t a fan of the NBA, one of the biggest stories in the league this past week has been the divisive nature between players and officials. In fact all season long it seems there has been a nightly discussion over technical fouls issued and the general demeanor between the two parties. Players have also been involved with each other on, and off the court, with physical altercations. Such as on Monday when players from one team attempted to go into their opponents locker room. And as always players getting involved with fans, such as Utah’s Rodney Hood slapping a phone out of a fans hand, is something to be concerned about. The NBA, which over the last few years has gained in popularity, is suddenly trying to fend off a perception of having bad attitudes.
What I mostly want to talk about today is the strife between players and officials. Players feel like they are being disrespected by officials and unfairly being given technical fouls. Even NBA Player President Chris Paul recently called out referee Scott Foster after his game on Monday. (Quick side note Paul was also one of the players that entered his opponents locker room after the game; now whether he was an aggressor or peacemaker remains to be seen.) There were a total of 21 technical fouls and five ejections in Monday’s 11 game slate. That may seem an inordinate amount, however according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver the amount of technical fouls is right in line with previous years. This season the NBA is on pace for 760 technical fouls, which would be lower than nine of the last 13 seasons according to the USA Today.
So what is the issue? I think it is communication. Players want to be able to talk to officials; they have done so in the past. However, as someone around numerous courts and games, times have changed and officials do not want to be questioned. I also think that the societal trend of social media, fans see everything instantaneously over and over, has escalated the issue. The NBA even does a two-minute report that highlights missed calls by officials. All of this creates a negative connotation for the official, leading them to be short-tempered and quicker with the whistle.
Players should be able to ask why a certain call was made so they can avoid making that same mistake. But how many times while watching a game do you see a player automatically complain or put his hands up in disagreement when called for a foul? Even when it is a clear foul to everyone at home and in the stands. It has almost gotten as bad as soccer players diving. Do players ever say “yep, you got me on that one”. No. NBA players assume they have done no wrong and the official is always wrong. While yes officials have a hard job and do miss calls, can you imagine the annoyance of being questioned…ON…EVERY…SINGLE..PLAY? It is the officials job to deal with this however I can’t blame them if they are tired of players whining every time down the court.
The NBA is supposedly meeting over All-Star Break in a few weeks to discuss solutions. This is a good sign for fans. The NBA has realized this is an issue and wants to address it as soon as possible. Step one of a solution is always communication. But I hope the players realize that while fans are not there to see officials make calls, we are also not watching the players see them complain about every single play or call. So NBA players, please, just shut up and play.