View Full Version : The refs as good guys, not!

11-05-2003, 11:50 AM
What a load of crap. This article implies that most players and coaches don't know the rules. If that is the case then the problem is not with the players and coaches, it is with the league rules. Traveling, charging, fouling, scoring, going out of bounds, & a few other are the only rules that basketball needs. If there is some new highly advanced, incredibly detailed set of rules that the NBA has invented which factors in a players temperament and tendencies, then that is not good. Call a foul a foul regardless of who committed it. There is a saying that applies to this, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). I am glad that Cuban's efforts have let to less secrecy and more accountability with these goofs. I would like a simple set of rules that I can learn so that I can watch an NBA game and know what is going on. I don't want to go to school for ten years to be able to get it. The refs and the league make it sound like that is a necessity.
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

By Ric Bucher
ESPN the Magazine

Some felt Bob Delaney and his crew helped Phil Jackson's Lakers beat the Kings in 2002.
NBA referee Bob Delaney received the 2003 Gold Whistle Award from the National Association of Sports Officials last June. For an award that arguably constitutes the highest form of commendation that exists among officials, it came and went with little fanfare. In part, no doubt, because Ralph Nader neither attended nor picketed the proceedings.

Nader, of course, is the consumer advocate-presidential candidate who blasted Delaney, Dick Bavetta and Ted Bernhardt for their performance in Game 6 a year and a half ago in the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Kings and the Lakers. Maybe "blasted" isn't quite right, since that suggests the three referees were criticized for how they officiated the game. The inference made by Nader and others went much deeper than that. They suggested the referees had a hidden agenda of some sort, one being to throw the game in favor of the Lakers to force a seventh and deciding game for the benefit of the league and then-TV partner NBC. You know, the ol' ratings conspiracy theory, as if extra games really do anything other than further line the pockets of the two teams involved. Some of my esteemed and longtime basketball experts didn't go quite that far. They simply said it was the worst-officiated game of importance they'd seen in their multi-decade careers.

This assessment, of course, was based on firsthand knowledge among Nader and the experts from having officiated approximately zero games and having talked to approximately zero officials at any level about Delaney and Co.'s performance.

Which, as it turns out, is actually good, in that it allowed the officials' selection of Delaney for the Gold Whistle to speak more loudly than any single quote could. The Gold Whistle, which has been handed out annually since 1987, is presented to a person with:

Ten years' or more of experience

An outstanding record of community involvement and public service

And, according to the NASO, "is regarded as a person of high integrity and ethics and possessing the qualities held in high regard by the community of sports officials."

So it comes down to this: Who should we believe? Should we go with those who watched Game 6 and deduced from the massive number of free throws the Lakers shot compared to other games in the series that an injustice was committed? Or should we consider officials who know firsthand what Delaney's job is, knew all about Game 6, took a close look at Delaney and his track record on and off the court and decided, "This is one of the most stand-up guys in stripes we know"?

I know whose opinion carries the most weight with me, but then I've made a cursory run at working as an official, most recently a few years ago in the NBDL's inaugural training camp to write a first-person story about the experience. The plan was for me to continue and eventually work an NBA exhibition game. The truth is, I am nowhere near ready to do that and finding the time to get a handle on even a George Plimptonesque NBA officiating gig is daunting. I'd need months of preparation just to get the mechanics down.

I've also had a high-profile coach admit that most NBA coaches do not really know the rules, an admission that didn't surprise me after gaining only a cursory grasp myself. I can assure you most players don't, either, yet for some reason we routinely give their protests more weight than the guys who do.

In any case, with a subtle change in policy, the NBA is attempting to make its officials and what they do a little less of a mystery. For the last year the league has quietly allowed the media to talk to officials not only about what they do but who they are. In the case of Delaney, that raised awareness of his previous work as a New Jersey State trooper, narcotics undercover cop and hostage negotiator. The Gold Whistle Award, in turn, shed light on his charity work, a single-spaced list longer than a lanyard -- Easter Seals, charity golf tournaments, fund-raising for 9/11 victims, Christmas gifts for kids at a county prison boot camp among them.

The new approach makes us more real people vs. an authority figure who gets to choose when to whistle a foul and not whistle a foul. Now maybe people know that's not the case, that we answer to someone, we don't make up how we call a game.
Bob Delaney
"Before we were this entity off to the side that nobody knew anything about," Delaney said. "The new approach makes us more real people vs. an authority figure who gets to choose when to whistle a foul and not whistle a foul. Now maybe people know that's not the case, that we answer to someone, we don't make up how we call a game. There are nights you walk off and you wish you had a play back or managed a particular game differently. What bothers you is when it's inferred that you cheated. You can disagree with the call and you might be right, but to say there was a cheating aspect hits you in the gut. When it's suggested that we're disrespecting the game, that's what hurts. If they only knew me, you think, they wouldn't have that feeling about me. Of course, it wouldn't make it as much fun to yell at us, either."

The league is cautiously cracking the door and expanding the means of accountability at a delicate time for its officiating staff. A number of longtime first-rate referees retired over the summer -- Don Vaden, Tommy Nunez, Ronnie Nunn and Hue Hollins. They are replaced, by my count, by five first-year officials -- Troy Raymond, Matt Boland, Zach Zarba, Tony Brown and Anthony Jordan. (League officials are so paranoid about their new refs being targeted by fans and teams that they no doubt will cringe at merely having those names identified. Memo to league: Get over it. Rookie players endure the same initiation. Rookie writers, too -- but that's another column for another time.)

The league also has expanded the officiating administration, making Nunn the director of officials, Ed Rush the director of officiating programs and Paul Brazeau the director of operations/officiating performance analysis. That last job is, in essence, to keep track of how many calls and of what types officials are making. Consider it the Mark Cuban approach to officiating.

Despite all that, chances are this year's officiating will draw heavier fire than ever. There's no way around it -- young officials managing the NBA's megastars and marquee coaches aren't as good at it as old officials and, thanks to attrition through age and injury, the officiating crew is as NBA green as it's been since the league shifted from using two referees to three. The refs are much like the players, in that they're being brought in on their potential to develop into NBA-caliber officials. That's always been the case, the difference now being the 32 camera angles and multiple cable channels and internet sites that make a blown call readily accessible for anyone who cares to rant about it.

Delaney and his associates can live with that. What they hope, courtesy of the league's new accessibility, is that you also look at what they do and how they do it. Because, maybe then, just maybe, you'll get a glimpse of why.

Ric Bucher covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.

11-05-2003, 12:24 PM
Tarzan, even when it'd be good for all to have simple rules, I think the biggest problem is the way they are applied.

I watched the last night's game of Lakers and Bucks. You know, the Shaq-Fouls-Calling factor. The Bucks were winning lasting few minutes and Shaq started to crush bodies in the paint and to score. The Bucks tried to keep the lead but everytime they stepped on the paint, Shaq stopped them almost raping them (sorry for the irony). The Bucks were called fouls several times and Shaq none. The Lakers won.

It was very frustrating. I hate again Shaq, but the guilty is the officiating.

Edit: I didn't see there is a thread about that game. I'm gonna read it and see if it matches my tell.

11-05-2003, 01:04 PM
Chiwas, I agree with you. My disagreement with the article is that Mr. Bucher made it sound like there were little or no double standards or favoritism involved and that the refs are men and women of the utmost integrity and that they are making the correct calls based on a complex and detailed set of rules.

11-08-2003, 05:55 PM

1.- The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.

2.- The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands (but never with a fist).

3.- A player cannot run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it; allowance to be made for a man who catches the ball when running at a good speed.

4.- The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body not be used for holding it.

5.- Not shouldering, holding, pushing, tripping, or striking in any way the person of an opponent shall be allowed. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next goal is made, or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game, no substitute allowed.

6.- A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules 3, 4, and such as described in rule 5.

7.- If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count as a goal for the opponents. (Consecutive means without the opponent in the meantime making a foul.)

8.- A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there, providing that those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edge and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.

9.- When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field and played by the person first touching it. In case of a dispute, the umpire shall throw it straigh into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on them.

10.- The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify men according to rule 5.

11.- The referee shall be judge of the ball and decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, and to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made , and keep account of the goals, with any other duties that are usually performed by a referee.

12.- The time shall be two 15-minutes halves, with 5 minutes rest between.

13.- The side making the most goals in that time shall be declared the winners. In case of a draw, the game may, by agreement of the captains, be continued until another goal is made.

12-16-2003, 04:30 PM
Descendent of the Doctor: Last week in New York, NBA Commissioner David Stern greeted Ian Naismith, grandson of basketball inventor Dr. James Naismith. Ian is also the director of the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.
Lee Insler/NBAE Photos

Tell Stern how your grandpa dreamed this game to be!