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Volume 24 No. 114
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NBA Players, Referees Arrange Sit Down Over Contentious Season, Relationship

The interaction between NBA players and officials has "become so contentious that the two sides will meet during the All-Star break in February to try to clear the air and forge a better working relationship," according to Scott Bordow of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Suns G Devin Booker said, "We say they’re being too cocky and arrogant and they’re saying the same thing about us. It’s two sides of the story. There has to be a middle, somewhere that we can meet." Players across the league have "argued that officials are handing out technicals for behavior that in past years would have either been ignored or handled verbally." Players see "three factors that have led to the worsening conflict between players and officials." Suns F Tyson Chandler said that retired officials were "better able to diffuse tensions than today’s young officials because they knew how to communicate with players and calm them down." Other factor are that officials are "unwilling to engage in conversations with players during games are only making matters worse" and the "amount of complaining done by players" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/17). ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez said "there's not nearly enough discussion" between the players and refs. Gutierrez: "These new referees, a lot of the coaches are saying that they don't give you the time of day to have these discussions, and that really angers the players. ... It's getting ugly right now.” ESPN’s Mina Kimes: "It’s not good for NBA when players like Russell Westbrook and LeBron James aren't on the court. They need to have a discussion about what the bounds of appropriate disagreement are because this is not working” (“Highly Questionable,” ESPN, 1/16). 

DIFFERING OPINIONS
: ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said if a growing number of star players believe their "relationship with the referees is no good, then this is a danger.” But ESPN’s Michael Wilbon noted the fact that foul calls "are missed every night ... doesn’t mean you can just have a spasm every night if you’re a player." Wilbon: "Players act like they don’t make mistakes anymore” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/16). The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said refs are "more consistent than ever," while players are "more empowered, more emboldened than ever." He said the players are acting like "big babies." Plaschke: "The players feel like they can run roughshod over the referees, and it makes them look silly.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola said, “The players are crossing the line (with the referees).” Meanwhile, ESPN’s Clinton Yates said referees are "now reffing for their jobs, they’re not reffing for the sake of their relationship with the players, and it showed a little different on the court” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 1/16).