There are several areas where NBA officiating seems to be a flawed Franken-Sterncreation, that creates more conflict that it resolves.
As a fan, I watch games to see the players play and watch players (coaches) determine the outcome of games. The officials absolutely have a role in the game, but the more the officials are part of the background the better.
The NBA position on technical fouls:
When the NBA established its new position on technical fouls in September of 2010, justifiable cause for a technical foul called on a player included:
Excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone.
Players making aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court.
Running directly toward an on official to complain about a call.
Demonstrating disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled.
The practice of rescinding a technical foul is confusing because the technical foul still impacts the game in which it occurs. With each technical foul rescinded, fans have to wonder, if the criteria for technical fouls is adequately defined by the league itself. Every technical foul rescinded seems to state that the officials are too quick with the whistle and are over applying the powers granted to them by the league.
The league has gone to great lengths to increase the amount of respect accorded to the officials and reduce player activities that disrespect the officials authority. Yet, at the same time, it has gone to exceptional lengths to make undermine the authority of the same officials by rescinding calls made on the court and in the game.
A Look at some of the Rescinded Technical Fouls:
Friday, March 11, 2007, the NBA rescinded Amare Stoudemire's 16th technical foul. This is another of the many technical fouls rescinded by the league this season and the third of Amare Stoudemire's technicals to be rescinded by the league this season.
The expanded rules are being applied by the referees, but then, the league rescinds the technical foul to help players avoid game suspensions, such as the suspension from Monday's game that Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic received. Incidentally, the Magic lost Monday's game against the Blazers as they attempted to compete with their best player watching from afar.
Dwight Howard gets a lot of technical fouls, but considering how often and how hard he is fouled, the suspension policy seems to be biased against him. The refs look the other way and have not seen fit to call flagrant fouls against players that intentionally strike Howard around the face, neck and shoulders.
Under the guidelines, Howard is required to stuff his feelings and just continue to take the beating. Despite rumors to the contrary, big guys hurt to, and constantly receiving excessive hard fouls can shorten a player's career.
In a similar fashion, Andrew Bynum had a technical foul rescinded by the league on January 10, 2011. The league rescinded the second technical foul Bynum received in the Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks game.
While rescinding the foul was a beneficent act by the league, the problem remains that the technical foul was called and enforced during the game, and Bynum was ejected from the game. So, apparently not all technical fouls are technical fouls. Fortunately, the Lakers went on to win the game and thoroughly drubbed the Knicks.
But, what if it was a close game and Bynum was ejected on a pity-pat technical foul? What if it were the playoffs? What if you change Andrew Bynum's name to Kobe Bryant in a Game 7 of the Finals? What is the good of rescinding a technical foul after the game in that scenario?
The Future of Technical Fouls:
The NBA needs to come up with better defined guidelines to be used in calling technical fouls or completely eliminate either the suspensions for technical fouls or the process of rescinding technical fouls.
Player suspensions are appropriate under many circumstances, such as physical altercations, pushing a referee, jumping into the stands to chase down a jeering fan and events of that sort. But, to suspend a guy because he is a whiner goes too far. Let the referee hit the player with a technical, give the opposing team a free-throw attempt and possession of the ball.
At the beginning of the season, the number of technical that were assigned for minor acts was disturbing to watch. The total number of technicals issues was not that much higher than any other season, but the reasons the technicals were called, in many cases, were bordered on obscene, and the new guidelines took more from the game than they added.
As it is, we have seen that the refs have had to bite down on the whistle instead of blowing it more and more as the season has progressed, and the competition has heated up. And, when the playoffs come and the stakes are higher, the refs are going to need to swallow the technical whistle even more to avoid throwing most of the star players out of the games inside of the first quarter.
Basketball is a wonderfully-spirited game, and rules are in that place to allow matters to be settled and penalties to be assessed on the court and in the moment. Secondary review of the technicals for the purpose of rescinding them undermines the authority of the referees more than the complaints of the players on the court.
In the future, fans can hope that a player will once again be able to “smack his own arm,” “incredulously raise his hands” or inquire about a foul in a “civilized tone” without being called for a technical foul that will only get rescinded later when the league realizes that its players will spend too much time off the court for something that easily could have been ignored.