Storyline: Officiating Complaints

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Kokoskov has been criticized by Suns fans for not “working the refs.” He’s said it’s not his nature to do argue calls in a demonstrative fashion. To him, it can be interpreted as for show, but behind the scenes, Kokoskov revealed Wednesday he and the Suns have been talking with the NBA about this very subject. “We’re going into an area in which I wouldn’t go to deep in discussing it with the media, but we have a daily communication with the league office,” he said. The players spent another night voicing their displeasure to the referees. Then vented a little afterward. “The last eight minutes of the game, I felt like they shot way too many free throws,” Suns wing Josh Jackson said. “Some questionable calls, but it is what it is. It’s the NBA. It happens every game.”

Conley offered a more measured response in his postgame remarks, but did say “there was a missed call” and added that “nothing has changed” since former coach David Fizdale criticized how officials handle Conley in a similar fashion. “So we’ve got to just get better at handling it,” Conley said. “We’ve got to know that things like that will happen and unfortunately it happens to us a little too often. We’ve just got to find ways through it and tonight we couldn’t finish. We let that get the best of us.”

“I think there’s a perception the players that are high-usage players that complain a lot get more (favourable) treatment,” said McCutchen. “(For referees) there’s just no way you can survive over an 82-game schedule if you’re sitting there going, ‘Oh, well, this person complains and (this person doesn’t) …’ Am I going to sit here and tell you that someone doesn’t ever give in to those complaints on an individual basis? Well, of course not. We all have moments of weakness where we give in. We’re human beings.”

Reigning MVP James Harden ended with 47 points, including the game-winning dagger with 13.3 ticks remaining, but it was the possession before that where he got away with an illegal move. Matched up in an isolation situation with Ricky Rubio, Harden made two consecutive stepback moves before hoisting up a 3-point attempt and receiving a foul call. After review, the official Twitter account of NBA referees admitted Tuesday afternoon that they got it wrong, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

Good thing, because by the end of the evening, which finished in a 95-86 loss to the Western Conference-leading Nuggets, Nurse had a different reason to shake his fists at the sky, cursing out the basketball deities — or, maybe it was just the referees. “You can’t tell me that one of the best players in the league takes 100 hits and shoots four free throws, and they handed him two for charity at the end,” Nurse said in a two-part rant that will earn him a fine from the league office. “So he was going to have two free throws for the game with all the physical hits and holding and driving and chucking and doubling and slapping and reaching and all the stuff. It’s been going on all year. I do not understand why they are letting everyone play one of the best players in the league so physically. I do not understand it.

The Wizards forward couldn’t say some of the things he’s roared at officials on the street. Now, he’s trying a new strategy. Yelling “And-one!” is the exception these days, the embodiment of Morris’ least restrained moment — because lately, he isn’t talking to refs at all. “I just feel like I never get the benefit of the doubt on no calls, but it’s not gonna bother me no more,” Morris told The Athletic. “It took eight years. But it won’t bother me no more.”

JB Bickerstaff: “We went back and looked at it and Marc’s in legal guarding position. A guy jumps from A to B sideways, that’s where the contact was created. So, that’s the call they made. I’m going to make sure we’re in the present moment and not what’s in the past. It’s frustrating when you’re not allowed to defend. That’s our reputation. It’s frustrating. We’re going to play this style of basketball. We deserve the respect because of the character of guys we have to play this style of basketball. Our technique is good. Our position is good. We work on it every single day. There’s going to be contact sometimes. And if you’re in a legal guarding position, you’re allowed to do it. And our guys are really good at (inaudible). And they deserve the respect to be able to play that way.”

Later, the root of Wall’s frustration trickled out. By the seventh question, Wall was asked whether he’s running out of patience, and he mentioned the officiating. A team staffer responded, “Thanks, John,” as a way to end the chat with reporters and save Wall from saying anything dangerous. However, Wall did not appreciate how Lillard attempted 15 free throws compared with his five, and he wanted to express that. “I’m always positive. I’s just a lot of bull—- that — c’mon, man,” Wall said. “These guys getting all the calls, and these guys are jump shooters. You got a guy that shot the ball 12 for 29 and then shot 15 free throws.” Another staffer chimed in and warned Wall to be careful so he wouldn’t get fined by the NBA. “I don’t care about that,” Wall responded.

The NBA admitting an obvious travel by 76ers center Joel Embiid was not called only added to Borrego’s frustration in comments before Sunday’s road game against the Detroit Pistons. “It’s tough. I had to read that thing last night, and it was like I had to live it all over again,” Borrego said of the NBA’s report, which acknowledged Embiid traveled with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter before making a 3-pointer that tied the game. The 76ers went on to win in overtime 133-132. “It does nothing” making peace with the error, Borrego said of the NBA’s policy of publicly acknowledging late-game mistakes in close games.

Truth be told, McCutchen can take the list from there and add, oh, a dozen or more details about how this massive adjustment in player legislation has changed the hoops landscape. But the most relatable litmus test, the thing that should be remembered as we all decide whether or not to be incensed by it all, is that McCutchen hasn’t had to change his cell phone number just yet. “Coaches and general managers most certainly have my number,” McCutchen told The Athletic. “But the phone has not been ringing off the hook. There have been some points-of-clarification calls that we have fielded, but not to the point where people are just calling up to say that this is wrong, or a debacle. I think that everyone is waiting to see about our consistency, about our will, to see if we’re going to see it through.”

“The league’s going soft, man,” Rudy Gay said. “It’s tough, man. It’s a contact sport. A contact sport. I understand that you’re changing the direction of the player, but right now it’s overboard a little bit. I mean, it’s been a point of emphasis, but you’re trying to get – you can’t touch guys. Guys are about to run, and basketball is a physical game. That’s what we lift weights for, right? “If you take the physical nature away from it, then – I mean obviously we have to adapt. It’s going to take some time. And if that’s the rule, then we’ve got to find a way to do it.” But as one general manager who will remain nameless made clear, that doesn’t mean they have to be happy about it. “They could call it every play or no plays,” he said bluntly. “Fucking absurd.”
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January 18, 2019 | 11:29 pm EST Update