The Los Angeles Clippers had a frustrating night at the office Thursday, finding themselves on the receiving end of a half-dozen highlight-reel plays as the Cleveland Cavaliers blitzed them, 105-94, in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated. That frustration boiled over a handful of times at Quicken Loans Arena, with referees handing out five technical fouls — four in the third quarter alone, with three coming within the space of a minute — to Clippers players, including one given to Chris Paul at the 10:17 mark of the third by referee Lauren Holtkamp.
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The parade of technicals certainly didn't decide the game — L.A. didn't get closer than double-figures after the final minute of the opening quarter and were down by 25 early in the second half before the whistles started blowing in earnest. But Paul and his teammates were still a bit salty about the officiating after the game, and the All-Star point guard used some eyebrow-raising language in telling reporters he was none too happy about the way things went down, as first related by Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding:
Chris Paul critical of ref Lauren Holtkamp's "terrible" tech on him (and Jordan). Said if she calls that way, "this might not be for her."
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) February 6, 2015
CP said he didn't understand Holtkamp not letting Clippers inbound ball faster and didn't curse, asking why (not)? CP: "I swear on my kid."
— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) February 6, 2015
Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles has those remarks in context:
"I think we have to show better composure but at the same time some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous," Chris Paul said. "The tech that I [got] right there was ridiculous. I don't care what nobody says, I don't care what she says; that's terrible. There's no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court and when we did that she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why, uh-uh?' And she gave me a tech." [...]
"That's ridiculous," Paul said. "If that's the case, this might not be for her."
Holtkamp also gave DeAndre Jordan a technical foul with 9:30 left in the third quarter after screaming for a foul following a dunk.
"I guess she thought I was talking to her," Jordan said. "We talked about it. She said that she thought I was talking to her. She made a call and I talked to the other refs and they disagreed with it. Hopefully it will be rescinded. We'll see."
The close proximity between Paul referring to Holtkamp — a former Division II basketball player and D-League, NCAA and WNBA official who had worked short-term regular-season and Summer League assignments at the NBA level before being tabbed this season as only the third full-time female referee in league history — as "she" and musing that she might not be long for, or belong in, the NBA immediately gave some fans pause. The wording was ambiguous enough to leave room to wonder — was this CP3 questioning the lack of seasoning of an NBA rookie ref, or was it something else, something worse?
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne said the sources close to Paul from whom she heard Thursday said it was the former. Markazi noted that no Clippers player or coach mentioned Holtkamp's gender in discussing the disagreements with her calls, both in this game and in one earlier this season. One wonders, though, whether Paul would've been so quick to suggest that a male first-year ref — like Holtkamp's fellow rookies, Dedric Taylor and Justin Van Duyne — might not stick around very long under similar circumstances.
The National Basketball Referees Association, the union representing NBA officials, backed Holtkamp and took Paul to task on Friday:
After review, the calls made by Ms. Holtkamp are fully justified. We deplore the unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. #shebelongs
— NBA Referees (@OfficialNBARefs) February 6, 2015
Paul's postgame comments would likely have drawn a fine from the league office even if he hadn't mentioned Holtkamp's gender; the NBA's disciplinarians have long been clear on the whole "you can't publicly blast our officials" thing. It remains to be seen, though, whether the potential for the public to interpret Paul's remark as gender-biased prompts Commissioner Adam Silver to respond any differently than he would any other instance of ref criticism.
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