Even certain NBA coaches have grown tired of the contentious relationship between NBA players and referees.
“It is out of control, and that includes my own team at times,” a coach of a playoff team told Frank Isola of The Athletic. “The league needs to do something about it.”
Technicals have been vastly up in this postseason, with officials seemingly fed up with the chirping from players regarding foul calls/non-calls. Twelve players have been ejected already, matching the postseason record since the league began tracking ejections in 1991-92.
The previous marks were set in 1994 and 2003. There were only three ejections during the 2018 playoffs.
“Unfortunately, the only relationship there can be between a player and referee is a working relationship,” former NBA referee Steve Javie told Isola. “It’s as simple as that. I’ve got a job to do as a referee which you’re not going to like a lot of times, and you’ve got a job as a player to try to win the game. We’re going to be combative at times, and that’s just the nature of referring, coaching and playing. I think they’re going to have to pull the reins back. There is a directive. They don’t want the complaining. It’s up to the refs to uphold the standard that the league has set.”
Frustrations with officiating have seemingly reached a head in the Golden State Warriors-Houston Rockets conference semifinal. Game 1 of the series was marred by near-constant complaints, some valid and others not, mostly coming from the Rockets about missed fouls on James Harden.
“I mean, I just want a fair chance, man,” Harden told reporters after the 104-100 loss. “Call the game how it’s supposed to be called, and that’s it. And I’ll live with the results.”
The NBA fined Chris Paul $35,000 for making contact with an official as he was thrown out of the game in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the postseason, the league also suspended Nets general manager Sean Marks for entering the referee’s locker room, fined Nets owner Joe Tsai for defending Marks and fined DeMar DeRozan for throwing a game ball at an official during the postseason.
The rift between players and officials has deepened in recent years, and it’s clear the NBA has to find a way to mitigate the problem. So much of basketball officiating is subjective that it’s hard to get every call correct. That said, the league needs to find a way to miss fewer calls while perhaps policing players more harshly in terms of fines.