"Game Respect" Technical Fouls Disrepect the Game, Players and Officials

Victor JanickiContributor IIOctober 15, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics talks with referee Joe Crawford while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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With more technical fouls being called in the NBA preseason, there will be a lot of discussion on how it is affecting the game.  

The NBA's crackdown on player's emotional outbursts may be well intended but is being implemented incorrectly. I contend that it is ill-advised and an overreaction by the NBA.  

First, it should be understood that the officials themselves are not emphasizing nor deciding to call these "game respect" technical fouls. They are mandated to. The league office is writing this into the rule book, therefore forcing the officials to call it.  

Some think this new technical foul rule application gives more power to the officials when it actuality, it takes it away. Simply put the official no longer has the power to use his/her discretion in when to call a technical and must by rule give that technical. 

Boston Celtic Paul Pierce, when whistled for a technical foul by Steve Javie, was told by Javie he had to call the technical by rule. In the Boston Celtic/New York Knick game, Jermaine O'Neill was told to walk away by Zach Zarba. Zarba did this to avoid having to call the automatic technical foul. O'Neill persisted and was whistled for the technical foul.

By rule, Zarba made the correct call. By the spirit of the game and how the rules were written, that is wrong.   

As a basketball official myself I won't speak for the NBA officials, just for myself. I certainly would hate to be mandated to call technical fouls that I ordinarily wouldn't call using my discretion.  

The power the officials have on the court is discretion. They have to decide quickly based upon rules and observation, what is and what is not a foul.  

There is no rule in basketball that takes that judgment away from them in the manner this "game respect" technical foul rule does.  

A couple years ago, the NBA wanted it made known that players and coaches would be encouraged to approach officials. The officials welcomed and were more than happy to accommodate the inquisitions on the court. 

With this new "game respect" technical, how are the players able or allowed to approach the officials? Like cops and robbers, players and officials shouldn't be on the same side. It's the nature of the beast.  

However, this separates the working relationship between the two. Officials do and will own up to mistakes and also explain rules and their enforcement to players. 

Players seek that out and should be able to approach officials for that reason. Officials should and do routinely have open dialogues with players so both sides understand how and why calls were made.  

The new "game respect" technical fouls also don't change the rules themselves, just make what was gray into black and white. What one person thinks is disrespectful the other won't. That is where discretion comes into play.  

To put it personally, if a player addresses me and I believe it to be in a respectful manner, yet he is a little demonstrative, my discretion tells me to allow him to make his case.  

If I was in the NBA, I'd have to give him a technical foul even though I don't think he deserves one. That doesn't give me more power, but takes it away from me. 

Now, someone in the league office has made the call for me. I am the messenger. And we all know the saying, "don't shoot the messenger." This is what is taking place in the NBA. The messengers, the officials, are having their characters assassinated by these technical fouls.  

If the "game respect" technicals remain for the season, players will adjust. Officials will also have to adjust. If they don't call the technicals, they will be marked as making incorrect calls. That is unfortunate. 

Ironically, to the fans that think they aren't as accurate as they really are, that misconception would be true. The fans would be the actual winners, along with the players with those missed calls though. 

And to interject another personal thought on that. Even if the officials don't call the "game respect" technicals, the NBA still can and most likely will assess fines. 

So the players will adjust. It would be better to make those adjustments in preseason to know how far they can go. And they will push the envelope. 

Will the NBA then review how players are getting around the rule and punish that? In two months' time, the amount of "game respect" technicals will decrease. Players will still whine but not to the extent. 

In the long run, having the whining decrease will be better for the game. But at what price will that be accomplished?

The NBA can handle the whining in a more calm and collective manner. Give the officials their discretion back. That truly does give them more power (as alleged this new rule application does). That would allow the officials to let the players play with the emotion everyone is looking for. And emotion goes both ways.  

The NBA is moving from the art of officiating to the science of officiating. Not only is the human element seemingly being taken from the players, but from the officials as well.   Should the officials be robots out there or give some understanding to the players before calling them for technicals? I vote for giving understanding.

Again, people will believe what they want to believe. And some don't want to hear anything they don't want to hear.  

No matter  your opinion of officials, this "game respect" technical foul rule is not made because of the officials and their missed calls, perceived thin skin, for their benefit or to give them more power.  

The "game respect" technical foul rule is made to address player's reactions. Some of those reactions may not even be towards the official and the call/non-call. (And players will admit to arguing about calls they know were made correctly.) 

So just remember the next time a technical foul is called, it may just be one called by rule, not by the official's decision. You, the fan, won't like it any more than the player AND the official calling the technical.

I certainly hope the NBA evaluates this new rule application seriously before the start of the season. As players should respect the game, so should those making the rules.