If you watched any of the NBA playoffs earlier this year, you know that the league is full of whiners. Actually, you know this if you watch the NBA at all, but it was especially bad during the postseason. Every time there was a whistle (and there were a lot of them) the guilty party would rush over to the ref to plead his case while waving his arms as if he were directing air traffic on a runway. Everyone from players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Rasheed Wallace, and especially Kendrick Perkins to coaches like Doc Rivers and Stan van Gundy got upset at every call against them. Perkins is especially uppity. Whenever he’s whistled for a foul, he acts as if he’s never had a foul called on him even if it was obviously a foul. He’ll club someone over the arm while they’re shooting and then go into hysterics for getting called for the foul. Which is why with the NBA’s new rules about techs, I think he’ll be in debt by the end of the season thanks to fines, which have been doubled.
Additionally, the refs are going to have an even quicker trigger when it comes to handing out technicals, as well. This means that hotheads like Joey Crawford will be handing them out like Mormons hand out pamphlets. Here’s what will get players called for techs:
• Players making aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court.
• Demonstrative disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands, or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled.
• Running directly at an official to complain about a call.
• Excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone.
Basically, everything that a player has always done to express their displeasure at a foul call, injustice or not, will get them T’d up. However, some things like “heat of the moment” reactions (a defensive player showing he had position, for example) will not be penalized. So instead of getting mad and arguing a call, which is also “heat of the moment”, they want players to just walk back down the court like nothing happened as if they were robots. I find this kind of ironic, actually, because if a player sarcastically walked back down the court like a robot, he’ be assessed a technical foul. Interestingly, the NBA’s senior vice president of referee operations, Ron Johnson, says that this new crackdown on complaining is because of the fans. Concerning players whining:
That’s not what our fans want. They tell us in many many ways and I think we have to adjust to meet the needs of our league and our fans. It’s a business.
I think the NBA is missing the point here. Us fans want better officiating. If you have better officiating, there’s less to complain about. Now they’re putting even more responsibility into the hands of the refs, who are already sketchy as it is. They aren’t consistent with how they call the game and they obviously play favorites with some of the players. And now they’re going to have even more influence over the game, which I think is a bad thing. If commissioner David Stern and the NBA would like to get away from the idea that the league and its refs have an agenda as to who wins games, then they might want to reconsider giving them more power. I can see a scenario where the Orlando Magic are playing the Miami Heat in the playoffs and Dwight Howard is not getting the calls he feels he should, so he argues a call and gets tossed while at the same time LeBron James has been arguing the entire game with no consequence. Same goes for a game between the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers. Demonstrative guys like Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett are going to get whistled for techs while Kobe Bryant will simply be warned. It will happen, trust me. And when it does, fans, players, and coaches alike are going to be pretty mad.
Johnson also said that “we don’t want our players looking like they’re complaining about calls on the court because it makes them look like complainers,” which is a statement so dumb that I can’t figure out where to begin. Is this the sole reason they’re doing this? To make it so that we don’t look at players with disdain because they’re “complainers?” I don’t see why that’s a big deal. As fans, we’re right there complaining with them! Whenever there’s a bad call (which is often) we’re complaining as well, whether it’s in the form of booing or yelling at our television screens. I don’t think there’s an image problem for the NBA concerning complaining players because players in every sport complain.
I see this ending in one of two ways. 1) It might fix the complaining problem, or 2) the amount of technical fouls will be so out of hand that the league has to soften its stance on complaining. I think the latter is much more likely.