Mandating Technicals in the NBA Is a Disaster: The Knicks-Celtics Example

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Mandating Technicals in the NBA Is a Disaster: The Knicks-Celtics Example
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
No 33 Zach Zarba, game's crew chief

The NBA got its first taste at the new crack down on complaining in the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks game.  Both sides of the argument can present their cases in this.  

Amare Stoudemire believed he was fouled by Kevin Garnett and made a hand gesture indicating this should be an "and one" play because he was fouled and it wasn't called.  

First, it wasn't a foul. What little contact there was, was incidental to the play.  The referee made the correct non-call in this situation.  

However, the referee did improperly enforce the new technical foul rule.  By rule, this action should have been called as a technical foul against Stoudemire. The referee used his discretion and did not, however.  

And that is how it should be.  

There was nothing particularly overt about what he did, and he didn't seem to be arguing with the referee. Just from the clip, there is no way to tell if he continued the conversation however.  

In the following video, watched in its entirety, the editing makes it hard to determine that a technical foul had been called and what for.  But at 0:22, it appears Jermaine O'Neill is continuing the conversation with the official. Nothing appears to be demonstrative or overt in this either, which using discretion would not be a technical foul. However, by rule, this is a technical.  

During the free throw, it is apparent that Kevin Garnett receives his technical foul. The referee does the correct thing in removing himself from the situation and the player. This should allow Garnett time to cool off. And since the referee's back is towards him, no action is being observed, another action to allow Garnett time to cool off.  

But instead of cooling off, Garnett continues the conversation and walks behind the official.   Per the new guidelines, this is an automatic technical foul. The first one might not have been called with discretion, but this second one would have. Thus no need for the new stringent guidelines on technical fouls. 

And fans do pay to go to games and watch on TV for the players. The player, in this situation Garnett, takes away from that and makes a spectacle of himself. Because of the new guidelines, he is ejected because of the first technical foul having to be called by mandate and not discretion.  

This is not only unfair to the player but to the referee. The referee is put in a position where he must call the technical whether he wants to or not. The fans who already have negative opinions of referees, some for good reason and most due to lack of understanding rules and application of those rules, will come down on the referee. The NBA has set the referees up for failure and more harsh criticism than they deserve.  

On a personal level, as a basketball referee, I would not want my discretion taken away from me and be mandated to call technical fouls. That doesn't give referees more power, but takes away their power. The average fan may disregard that the league is mandating these technicals and just easily blame the referee.

Basketball is an emotional sport, but players also need to realize what emotions they are showing. Whining isn't an emotion and shouldn't be tolerated.  But the emotions also shouldn't be muted to this extreme.  

This should serve as a good lesson for every player and team but especially for Garnett. Get this done in the preseason so you know how far things are allowed to go. In the regular season, where it matters, this will be more detrimental to your team.  

I've written in a previous article how the NBA could solve this.  The short version is to allow the referees to call technical fouls as they have in the past: with discretion.  

When the NBA offices review the games, fines can be assessed to the players, coaches and/or teams they see fit to fine. The fines would penalize the emotional outbursts they deem in violation.  Players will adjust, just like they will with the technical fouls being called.  But with the technicals, it will be more apparent to fans just how ill-advised this new rule implementation really is. 

At the end of the season, the technicals will go down.  But expect the NBA to take a closer look at what players are doing to get around the rule.  

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