On Wednesday, the NBA’s referee union released a statement that confirmed what we’ve been trying to tell some of you angrier sorts for years: NBA referees actually do a pretty amazing job.
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Seriously. Stop shouting. They really don’t have it out for your favorite team. I mean, I hate your favorite team, so damn much, but they don’t.
Earlier in the season the league announced plans to release grade reports for the job the referees do during the final two minutes of contests. Almost immediately, a Clipper (big shocker there) was shot down in the release’s first report, backing up the referees’ technical foul calls during a too-close Los Angeles win over Minnesota.
With two months worth of data behind it, the refs’ union (which was initially against the plan) decided that it was time enough to rightfully champion the work the referees have done with the added influence of the on-record daily postings being available for all to see.
The National Basketball Referees Association (NBRA), which represents the 63 active NBA referees, believes the subjective nature of what is considered a foul and necessitates a whistle undermines the validity of the non-calls assessed to be incorrect. Flow of game, how the possible contact influenced the play, speed of play and having just six eyes watching the greatest athletes in the world – all of these factors influence the referees’ decision to blow the whistle. Additionally, NBA referees don’t have the luxury of watching play from multiple camera angles, in high definition, slow motion replay or the many other helpful viewing tools utilized by game assessors. That the assessors, with all of this technology and removed from live action, still determine the vast majority of officiating decisions correct, reinforces the persistent skill of all NBA referees.
“Officiating evaluators and even fans have many advantages over a referee,” says Seham. “Refereeing fast-moving live action with just their eyes, knowledge and instinct – it’s easy to judge their profession, but a very select few of qualified individuals can actually do it, much less do it correctly 97% of the time.”
Well, kind of. I mean, they do one thing correctly 97 percent of the time.
The “97 percent”-figure only applies to “correct calls,” as the referees hit for a less stellar 78 percent mark on “correct no-calls,” leading to an 86 percent success rate overall.
The issue I take is not with the referees, but what the league determines is the “correct” call in these cases that the referees (for better and for worse, sometimes) are calling correctly nearly 100 percent of the time in the last few minutes. Hand-checking rules need to stay strong, the game is better for it, but determining that every bit of contact on the interior (usually leading to a player tossing himself to the floor) is worth a call is not kosher in my eyes.
We should be more concerned with the “correct no-call”-side of things, and not because of the relatively poorer 78 percent success rate. The NBA has stripped quite a bit of leeway away from referees as they decide to purposely overlook what is too often a bogus block or charge call. You don’t always have to call a block or charge. You can just let the refs let it go sometimes.
It’s true that uncalled (rightfully so in most cases, to this guy at least) block or charge calls aren’t making up the whole of that 22 percent of misses, and that the NBA does allow for some flops to go uncalled, but it’s still a telling stat as referees (again, relatively) struggle to keep up with the NBA’s modern insistence that running up underneath a player who is about to leap into midair (potentially making a spectacular play) is considered “defense.”
The referees should be lauded, in the call department, for nearly offering a perfect game (in the last two minutes at least) on what the NBA deems foul-worthy. I just don’t always agree with what the NBA deems foul-worthy, and the refs (despite the NBA insistence on dropping heavy fines, also understandable) are the ones usually caught in the verbal crosshairs after doing exactly what they’re told to do.
The larger issue is what we’ve been bleating about for years. It’s absolutely fine to lose your mind when a call doesn’t go your team’s way, but to pretend like there is bias involved, that the referees are by and large doing a substandard job, or that there are better referees working in different ranks is, well, it’s just plain ignorant. This is an incredibly tough game to call in the moment, even without the added pressure that the NBA puts on its officials with the nightly (full game) reviews and oftentimes needlessly black/white expectations regarding what is a foul and what isn’t.
The referees are really good at this. Honestly.
(Now, please, give Derrick Rose 18 free throws tonight.)
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