NBA rumors: Bulls coach Billy Donovan calls out officials

Speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s 118-113 loss to the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan said he “didn’t quite understand” the reasoning behind a controversial fourth-quarter foul call made by officials, and upheld after review, on Lonzo Ball. “The call made zero sense to me,” Donovan said. “Now, I’m not saying it made zero sense to me because I don’t agree with what they said. The way they explained it to me, and what I was able to see (on the in-arena cameras), did not make sense. So if I can get a different camera view, I can maybe understand what they’re talking about. “But it seemed so far-fetched about what they were telling me, it just didn’t make sense to me. And I’m not sitting there saying they were wrong on it, they’re obviously looking at it and reviewing it. But I really don’t know how you make a call like that based on what I saw.”

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The call came at the 5:13 mark of the fourth quarter with the Bulls trailing 99-94. Ball had knocked down a 3-pointer, but was whistled for an offensive foul on the play — presumably for initiating contact with the contesting defender, Kevin Porter Jr., after or in the process of releasing the ball. "I was told he (Ball) shot it, he came down and fell down and kind of grabbed the guy (Porter Jr.)," Donovan said, emphasizing that "the way the video was in the arena," he didn't get a clear look at the play.
The play proved a pivotal moment in the game. Had Donovan's challenge been successful, the Bulls would have cut their deficit to 99-97 with just over five minutes to play. Instead, Danuel House buried a 3-pointer on Houston's next possession, making the score 102-94. "It was such a big play in the game, that's why I challenged it," said Donovan, who typically reserves his coach's challenge for high-leverage plays in the final moments of games. "I lost the timeout, but I figured it was three points, potentially four if they would've reviewed it and he (Ball) would have been fouled. If it was a four-point play, it would have cut the lead to one."
Calls/missed calls happen all the time. That’s sports. But he’s felt for a while there’s a deeper issue: A lack of his respect for his team. Asked specifically about matching Brooklyn’s intensity, Bickerstaff quickly shifted the conversation. “We matched intensity, but what we have to do and have happen is match consistency,” Bickerstaff said. “That’s in our performance. That’s the referee’s performance. That’s in all aspects of the game. We saw it tonight, we saw it the other night. We have to find a way -- as a staff, as players -- to earn people’s respect, where it is consistent. That’s what this league is about. This league is about your reputation and you earn your reputation. Those guys have earned their reputation. What’s right is right. I thought there were some calls that were definitely missed tonight that favored (Brooklyn), and that’s wrong. Our guys deserve better than that.
That wasn’t the only call Bickerstaff -- and the Cavs -- felt went against them during a back-and-forth 117-112 loss to star-studded Brooklyn. A source texted cleveland.com with a full list following the game. Two “phantom” calls on Kevin Durant jumpers -- one early and one late. Constant uncalled contact on Darius Garland drives that led to just four free throws. Allen getting mugged in the paint. And, of course, the Rubio offensive foul.
Lillard said, "The way the game is being officiated is unacceptable. I don't want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations that's getting missed, I mean, come on... I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn't affect me, because I don't do the trick the referees, I don't do the trick plays. It's just unacceptable."
James Harden didn’t want to speak about the refs after the Nets’ loss to the Bulls on Monday night. No matter. His on-court demeanor spoke volumes. After repeatedly driving into contact and not getting calls — he took just three free throws all night — Harden was so vexed after one instance he stared incredulously at the ref, then plopped down on the stanchion looking the other way. When he finally did get a call after getting raked across the arm, he threw his arms aloft and looked to the heavens in mock thanks.

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Following the game, he deflected any questions about the calls on Monday or on the new so-called Harden Rules in general. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Harden said. When it was pointed out the Bulls seemed to take him out of his driving game, he replied, “No, I don’t want to talk about it. I never got … it didn’t take me out of my game. I felt like I played well to the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter, none of us played well. It definitely didn’t take me out of my game.”

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Josh Lewenberg: OG: “Yeah, I don’t get any calls. Hopefully that changes because I’m driving and getting hit and the refs aren’t calling it.” pic.twitter.com/EmBGO353eV
Vogel’s point is valid — the Lakers lost a possession in the final three minutes of a tight game. Davis said he and LeBron James made the same argument to the officials. “What me, Bron and coach were explaining to the refs was we lost a possession,” Davis said. “We didn’t take the ball out or anything. We shot free throws, [they] take the points away, and now we just lose the possession. Which could have cost the game.”
Mark Murphy: Udoka admits Tatum has a tough habit to break when he complains to refs: "We tell him to move onto the next play. But it’s not easy - it’s a league-wide thing. And for him it's just playing through it, and understanding that he’s gonna get calls if he keeps being aggressive."
Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said he was shocked that Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was not ejected after throwing the ball into the stands during the Nets' win Friday night. After being fouled with 4:40 left in the third quarter, Durant threw the ball overhand toward the hoop, and it sailed over the backboard and into the crowd. "I think I saw Kevin Durant wind up and throw the ball overhand, 10 or 15 rows into the stands and not get ejected," Carlisle said with a laugh after the game. "I think that's what I saw. And so that was shocking."
Asked what the officials' explanation was for not ejecting Durant, Carlisle replied, "I'm not going to share the explanation because I don't want to embarrass the officials. I don't want to embarrass the league. These guys are nice guys. They just made a big error. The league will address it." "You don't want to hear the explanation," continued Carlisle, who is the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. "And at this point, it doesn't matter, because it's not going to change the outcome.
Jeff Zillgitt: Re: Trae Young's $15K fine "for making contact with a game official" in last night's game vs. Wizards. Hawks had three player techs vs. Wiz; frustrated most of the night, and Young expressed that frustration after game about new rule regarding "non-basketball moves."
Hawks guard Trae Young paused in the middle of his postgame comments, perhaps wondering if he was going too far -- or sensing that he already had. "I don't want to get fined too much, but it's frustrating," the Atlanta star said. There's no telling how the league will receive Young's latest words. This wasn't some unhinged rant, but he certainly had plenty to say about the officiating after the Hawks lost 122-111 to Washington on Thursday night. Young was one of five players who received a technical foul during the game, and another one was given out for delay of game.
"There's a lot of missed calls," he said. "It's basketball. It's just, it feels that they're learning, and they're just -- I don't know. It's frustrating." Young went into more detail moments later. There's a new crackdown this season on non-basketball moves designed to draw contact. Officials aren't supposed to call defensive fouls when that happens, and Young and James Harden are often mentioned as players who could be significantly affected. Young averaged 8.7 free throw attempts a game last season. He's averaging 4.4 this season after taking only three Thursday. "I saw James said it's about him, but it's not targeting just one player or two players," Young said.
Young mentioned Damian Lillard and Devin Booker, a couple of other star scorers off to relatively slow starts. "You can watch basketball. Damian Lillard's never averaged 17 points probably since his rookie year," Young said. "There's a couple guys. I mean, Book's averaging 18. There's a lot of things that, when guys are driving straight and guys are getting knocked off balance -- it's still a foul, whether they're using their lower body or their hands."
Sarah K. Spencer: I asked Nate McMillan about the Hawks looking frustrated tonight, and he basically said they've got to overcome it: "The officiating can't be a distraction. We had 4 or 5 techs tonight. That's ridiculous. It wasn't the officiating that was beating us, it was our play."
Will Guillory: KAT already picks up his first tech of the night after another no-call in the post against Jonas. Won't be surprised if things get spicy between those two at some point tonight.
Alex Schiffer: James Harden on the rule change: “It’s still basketball. A foul is a foul…for me you have to keep going.” Concurs with Nash on being the poster boy, but says it can’t be an excuse. Has asked refs to call what they see.
Matt George: De'Aaron Fox says the Kings don't expect to get calls. Says they wont get calls in practice because that's what they expect in games.
Jay King: Ime Udoka said the Celtics got a little chippy at practice today and he told them to let him be the one to “bitch at the refs.” “We’re not gonna be a team that cries the whole time. That’s definitely not me.”
Luka Doncic’s disappointment with Slovenia’s loss to France in the second Olympic Games semifinal was more than obvious in the finale with the Dallas Mavericks superstar also expressing his frustration on his way to the locker room. After the end of the game, Doncic was shouting “FIBA is probably happy” while walking through the media mixed zone per '15min'. He was also reported to shout “FIBA happened” while Slovenia big man Ziga Dimec was being asked questions about the game.
Slovenia had several complaints with the officiating and particularly with a play halfway through the fourth period and the score tied at 78 where Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot blocked Jaka Blazic’s layup attempt. Blazic protested that it was a goaltending violation and he received a technical foul.
Sean Highkin: Reporter: "Monty, you said after the game that you didn't want to complain about the free throw disparity and then you did in the next sentence. Why is that?" Monty: "Is that kind of a jab? Someone asked me the question."
Mark Medina: Giannis on Monty Williams pointing out he had more free throws than the entire Suns in Game 3: "I don't follow quotes after the games from coaches. But I think I take a pretty good beating out there. I have a scratch here and a scratch there. They're making my pretty face ugly."
Dave McMenamin: Suns coach Monty Williams: “I’m not going to get into publicly complaining about fouls … but we had 16 free throws tonight. One guy [on the Bucks] had 17”
Kellan Olson: Monty Williams said it's hard to tell Deandre Ayton what to do defensively to avoid fouls when guys are running into Ayton. Said he isn't sure at times what a legal defensive position is. Noted that would help them adjust to how the game is being called.
Mark Medina: Suns coach Monty Williams: "We have to define what is a legal guarding position. It's hard to tell a guy what to do when somebody is running into you."
Sam Amick: The Bucks were frustrated by the whistle in the opener, when the Suns shots 26 free throws to Milwaukee's 16 and Khris Middleton didn't get there once. They’re the NBA’s best team at defending without fouling, so this is a crucial factor. So I ASKED about it (not baited, Bud:) pic.twitter.com/m6awfbWpzn

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After the Suns had 26 free throws in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer admitted the disparity at the line in the opening game -- a 118-105 Phoenix win -- was "frustrating" for Milwaukee. "You trying to bait me?" Budenholzer said with a smile when asked about the Suns getting 10 more free throw attempts than his team in Game 1. "No, I mean, it's a huge part of the game. They had 25 points from the free throw line. We're a team that prides ourselves in defending and being able to be good defensively without fouling.
"I can't remember the last time a team got 25 free throws in a game against the Bucks. And then conversely, the way Giannis [Antetokounmpo] attacks, the way Khris [Middleton] attacks, as many opportunities as Khris has with the ball ... it's frustrating, but it's part of the sport. It's part of the game. "We've got to be better defensively. We've got to keep them off the free throw line and we got to be more aggressive attacking and getting to the free throw line and getting to good offense."
Sarah K. Spencer: Full answer from Nate McMillan when I asked him about Giannis exceeding the free-throw time limit in Game 1: "It’s a rule that we want them to call. So the NBA announced that that should have been called and we hope that if that happens again, that it is called."
So, why does this matter now? Because sources say the Atlanta Hawks are not happy that the league is continuing to look the other way on the matter in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the Hawks’ Game 1 116-113 win over the Bucks on Wednesday, Antetokounmpo — by the Hawks’ internal count — ranged between 11.5 seconds and 13.3 seconds on his eight attempts but wasn’t whistled once.
Chris Vivlamore: Embiid: “There is a lot of stuff that went wrong whether they can foul me all they want, whether it’s the whole officiating tonight. You got guys fouling, putting their hands up. Me going for a dunk and they don’t call anything. ...
Kyle Neubeck: Embiid ripping into the officials right now after crediting Atlanta and noting they didn't do enough on their end: "They can fine me all they want...they didn't call anything the last three games."
Tom Moore: #Sixers coach Doc Rivers on Embiid saying he's not getting the calls Young did. 'I don't want to get into this, but I think he's right. ... There was one layup he made where a guy cut into his body & he fell to the floor. It seems like they can take liberties with big guys.'
After the Philadelphia 76ers' 104-99 Game 6 win Friday to tie up their second round series with the Atlanta Hawks 3-3, Joel Embiid was so fed up with how he viewed the officiating for him compared to the Hawks' superstar leader, he didn't even want to say Trae Young's name. "I just felt like it wasn't called both ways, especially because of the minimal contact that they get on the point guard and when it comes to us, we don't get the same thing," Embiid said after Philadelphia came back from down 12 in the first quarter to win. "So, I just want it called both ways. If you're going to call something like nothing on their point guard, it should be the same way and call the same thing [for] me when I get -- if I get -- touched."
"I got a tech for it and I didn't think it was an offensive foul," Embiid said after finishing with 22 points and 13 rebounds. "I was just trying to stay calm and have my hands up. And someone was pushing me from the back and I don't understand why I got a tech. "But I guess it is what it is. I was hacked all night and I don't think I was on the free throw line until I got to the fourth quarter and all that stuff. So it was questionable but we got the win. That's all that matters."

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The NBA's Competition Committee met Monday to further explore rule changes to restrict the unnatural motions surrounding jump shots that players are using to draw fouls, sources told ESPN. The league wants to limit the ability of players -- including crafty stars like James Harden, Luka Doncic and Trae Young -- to lean backward and sideways, for example -- to initiate contact and get to the free throw line.
The NBA has shared a video compilation of player examples with the 30 teams that outlines a number of motions deemed unnatural that were used to draw fouls. The NBA and the Competition Committee will drill down on specific plays with the league's GMs next week to target examples that'll be recommended to owners to vote to eliminate next season, sources said.
There's growing belief that many of these maneuvers are contributing to a game that's slanting too much of an advantage toward the offense. While the concentration of these issues is often focused on star players getting much more usage and exposure with the ball, the league sees this as a universal problem throughout lineups and rosters -- not only an issue for star players.
The NBA and Competition Committee -- comprising a select group of owners, general managers, coaches, players and referees -- largely believes there's a framework of rules that allows offensive players too much free time to initiate contact in what are deemed unnatural and awkward ways.
Jeff Zillgitt: Steve Nash on P.J. Tucker's defense: "He’s playing extremely physical and made it difficult. That’s his role on their team. I thought it was borderline non-basketball physical at times, but that’s the playoffs. You have to adapt and adjust."

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It was enough to make an old guy feel nostalgic about the 1980s. During a timeout with three minutes left, Bullock clearly had had it so he charged the Hawks’ bench from the other end of the court, presumably to get at Gallinari, and Bullock had to be restrained by teammates, drawing a technical foul. Gallinari pretended to be oblivious to it all. “I honestly didn’t know that he was running toward me,” he said. “I was just going back to the bench to get my water. I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening.”
Sean Highkin: Damian Lillard: "I felt like everything we did was a foul. Maybe some of them were fouls, but every damn thing we did, the whistle was being blown. ... It was a lot of things we could have done differently. We can't make no excuses and blame it on that."
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December 7, 2021 | 8:26 pm EST Update