The NCAA is trying to move their officials into the science of officiating instead of the art of officiating. And now apparently the NBA is doing the same. It is popular opinion that the state of NBA officiating is bad. And perceptions, mostly misguided and uneducated, become reality. The NBA has made improvements in officiating and continues to strive for an almost perfect system.
Whether fans want to believe it or not is a different story. But the NBA officials are highly trained and experienced and go through multiple levels of training, scrutiny and evaluation on a daily basis. The new technical foul rule isn’t to improve the officials themselves. It will help the NBA and the game itself, but hurt the officials.
On a broad scale, this rule eliminates the individual official’s judgment call in live action. The official can no longer give a player a warning or some understanding. The official must disregard judgment and issue a technical foul.
Whether the officials agree with the rule or not (and I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of official’s don’t like the rule in it’s entirety and it’s implementation), they must abide by it. By doing so, they will become even more hated. The average fan, and those who subscribe to conspiracy theories and have ill-informed opinions on the officials, will come to hate them more.
The fan may not remember or care that these rules were put in place and the officials have to abide by them. The players themselves and coaches should understand and take their complaints to the NBA office and not with the officials who are only doing their job.
An ESPN poll asked if this new directive instructing officials was either “necessary in order to keep control” or “unnecessary expansion of referee power”. We know the answer ESPN wants and is leading the poll takers to. It’s the latter. This new rule doesn’t give the officials more power. It actually takes the power away from them.
The official on the court during the game has to make a call directed to him/her to make by those in the NBA offices. The power that is given, is given to and from Stu Jackson. The officials are only the middlemen or the messengers. And they will be shot, to borrow an expression. The poll also in it’s latter option (which with 13,235 responses had 63 percent of the vote not surprisingly) is just predicting the reaction of fans to the first called technical.
Those fans are going to blame the official instead of the intended person the technical is trying to correct the problems of. I don’t need to list the complaints that will be heard; they never change even when the officiating has. Another column can list the changes that have been made. But anyone following the NBA can see changes just by playoff assignments and who officiated Finals games. There have been changes and will continue to be. Yet, the fans perceptions haven’t changed and won’t with this new rule.
Permit me to break down this rule. The T for aggressive gestures (including but not limited to air punches anywhere on the court) is well intended. If a player punches the air towards the official, that should be a technical. Players should play with emotions. They just need to be careful of what emotions and how they express them. There will be bad calls just like there will be bad shot selections and bad defenses.
The aggressive gestures shouldn’t be allowed in the direction of or about the officials. They shouldn’t even be allowed to show anger at the opponent or themselves. But to penalize any sudden outburst of emotion verbally or otherwise is going overboard.
A demonstrative disagreement (incredulously raising hand or smacking arm indicating a foul) is now a technical. This is a part of the technical foul rule that has always been in place, but left for the judgment of the official. At the very moment you are called for a foul or didn’t get the benefit of a call, it is hard not to react. The mere act of raising the arms to indicate you think you had verticality or showing where you were fouled shouldn’t be penalized.
If the player persists in that activity, then yes the official should be afforded the judgment call at that time. The NBA wants open dialogue between players and officials (which is good for both sides and welcomed by both). This rule discourages open dialogue. If the player so much as tries to indicate where they were fouled, it is a technical foul. And that official doesn’t want to call it, but now has to. We will see technical fouls being called and the official telling that player sorry (as it happened when the NBA in past years tried getting strict with technicals). This part of the rule is where the judgment should be given back to the official, or perhaps more appropriately put, the power.
Running directly at the official to complain is now worthy of a technical foul. Really? This again should be left to the official’s judgment. A player can appear to be angry and run towards the official and maintain composure and talk to the official in a civil manner. Yet that will be whistled. Being sarcastic, perhaps each player should have a radio they can communicate with the officials with so they don’t have to run or walk towards the official. That is how ridiculous this part of the rule is. How can the officials be more open to approach if you can’t approach them?
The excessive inquiries about a call or non call, even if civil are technical foul worthy. This again is part of the technical foul rule that should be left for judgment. Once the official warns the player to stop the discussion (and most likely is whining), that should be it until the end of the game. Instead of concentrating on the game, they are continuing a conversation with the official. That action takes them out of the game and the official from his responsibilities. This shouldn’t be automatically penalized.
Again, give the power back to the official to make that call as they see fit. The officials do show restraint. How many times in a game aren’t the fans screaming for a technical foul that never gets called. That is the official showing restraint. Now in this same situation, the technical foul will automatically be called and sooner than what the fans will perceive is fair.
Consideration will be given for a technical foul automatically for body language or verbal language such as “come on”. I say come on. This already is in the technical foul parameters. The NBA doesn’t need to be so heavy handed in this. To make players afraid of speaking or using body language at all changes them as players.
There is a lot of whining that is unnecessary and doesn’t accomplish anything. Officials will make mistakes (there will never be a perfectly called game). Through all their weekly training and evaluation processes, the officials strive for the highest percentage of correctly called games. Contrary to public perception, they do get a majority of calls correct. When they do make errors, they are more evident now than ever before. They learn from those. No official wants to see their blown call all over ESPN. Similarly, no player wants their mistakes played all over ESPN more than their brilliant plays. Another sarcastic side of me wishes the officials could whine just as much to the players after video review proves their calls correct. I applaud the NBA for trying to crack down on the amount of whining. There are better things to do than whine.
The player can still ask clarification on what the official saw causing him to blow the whistle. Coaches send in tapes to the NBA every game for review. The officials are evaluated in the arena, via video tape. Every call and non-call is evaluated. Every official must maintain a certain level to remain on the staff and only the highest rated ones obtain playoff assignments. That doesn’t mean they didn’t make errors, even some big ones. But the accuracy percentage of the officials are at a high level and should be.
Overall, this new rule is unnecessary as written. The NBA could easily have made it a point of emphasis. Give the officials their judgment back. Instruct them to give warnings at the first sign of excessive complaining, hand gestures, and body language. After the warning to the player or team, then hand out technicals as they deem necessary in the situation. When the NBA league offices review the game, if they feel it was necessary to punish any uncalled behavior, they can asses fines. Players will adjust better then. As it stands now, I can predict more fines for complaining about officials. If I subscribed to conspiracy theories, I’d suggest the NBA wants to increase fines levied.
Easily predictable, there will be more technical fouls in the beginning of the season. And we’ll see players and fans shocked at why technicals are being called for just rolling eyes or talking. The officials will be hated even more and more people will threaten not to watch the NBA again. Players will adjust and in January, the amount of technicals will decrease. Then players will find ways around this rule. Next year, the NBA possibly will change rules to the lowest common denominator to ensure all actions are included in this rule.
My opinion is the whining does need to be limited, just not in the manner the NBA is suggesting. Let the officials use their judgments. The way this rule is written, it will only create more hatred towards officials, player dissension, increase of fines and fans being unhappy with the way the game is called. So to this new rule, I call a technical foul.