Bernucca: Time for NBA referees to snap out of it

Having coached high school basketball for the last two seasons, I have gained a true appreciation for the quality of officiating by NBA referees.

Until this week.

This was a bad week for the league and its referees, as the NBA admitted there were blown calls that changed the outcome of two games.

“I’ve been in this league 18 years and I’ve never seen as many missed calls at the end of the game to cost us the game,” Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We have good officials, too good to miss calls and short-change these young men like that. And it’s not right.”

Casey’s complaints came after DeMar DeRozan clearly was clobbered and got no call at the end of Wednesday’s 93-92 loss in Atlanta. The coach may be at the end of his rope.

Earlier this season, the Raptors lost a one-point game to Charlotte when Andrea Bargnani was hacked by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the final seconds and no foul was called. In just the last three weeks, Toronto has lost three games in overtime and two more by a point.

One night later, Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle took to the soapbox after Brandan Wright was hit on the arm by Andrew Bogut and got no call in a nationally televised loss to Golden State.

“I don’t know what you want to call it at the end. Unlucky?” Carlisle said. “Whatever you want to call it. Screwed? It happened.”

You can also understand why Carlisle may be losing his grip on patience. Dallas is 1-8 in overtime this season, and this week lost back-to-back road games in the final seconds.

Now for the bad news: Those weren’t the blown calls admitted to by the NBA.

The calls the league quietly said were wrong came earlier in the week – on Monday in Denver, where Andre Iguodala’s steal from Indiana’s Paul George should have been a rake, and Tuesday in Portland, where Ronnie Price drew a charge from O.J. Mayo of Dallas that should have been a block.

Having already admitted to two missed calls in just over 24 hours, the NBA apparently felt it had reached its weekly quota of self-examination. Instead of acknowledging that its referees had missed two more calls, the folks at the Olympic Tower turned into Catholic school headmasters, took out their figurative yardsticks and fined Casey and Carlisle $25,000 apiece.

Hey, if you tell the lie long enough, eventually it becomes the truth.

No referee gets every call correct. And all bang-bang calls – especially late in close games – are going to tick off at least half the fans. But the common denominator in all four instances this week was that the home team got the call.

At any level of the game, tilting the whistle toward the home team is always the easiest way out for referees who lose the nerve to call what they see and instead call what they want to hear.

I watch it happen time and again at the high school level, which desperately needs a third referee to police the off-the-ball garbage that often turns dribble drives into power sweeps and second-chance points into 2nd-and-6. I don’t like it, but I’ve come to expect it.

I don’t expect it in the NBA, which loves to make a big to-do of how its referees paid their dues in college and the D-League and have earned the right to officiate the best players in the world. They are given first-class travel, unimpeachable work schedules and the best technology, including the wonderful addition of replay review.


  1. Unknown says

    I just wanted to say the calls the refs made tonight on the Pacers Raptors game sucks. I call it complete favoritism. We need to get better officials. The Refs are dumbasses. They need to get glasses or pay more attention!!!! Tony Brothers you SUUCKKK BIG TIME!!!!!! Go get a job in where you can maybe make better calls!!!!

  2. FireDavidStern says

    It makes no sense and when something makes no sense, it’s because we don’t have all the facts. It is hilarious that making a mistake (ie. a foul”) in an NBA game (I’d hate to refer to their product as basketaball), gets you a penalty such as some sort of foul call, technical foul, or ejection. However, when the referees make a mistake, there are zero ramifications. Zero. How many NBA refs have been fired for bad officiating? Zero. How many have been fined for blown calls? Zero. Hell, not even Joey Crawford was fired for what he did to Tim Duncan years ago. Yet when anyone complains about it, they get fined. They get fined for stating the obvious because they don’t want anyone to draw more attention to the fact that the referees massage the outcomes of the games. Fire David Stern. Now.

  3. hoogie2007 says

    In boxing there are ramifications for putting the “fix” in though we all know that it still happens; even in figure skating there are ramifications for putting in the “fix”, but in basketball it seems that it is expected with no consequences for the ref, but serious penalties for anyone who complains about it. On my reading of the rules of basketball I do not see where there is any rule that says a foul is not a foul if you are considered to be a star in the sport or a member of a team that is making the playoffs who is playing against a team that is not making the platoffs. The “Superstars” of basketball are made that much better because they can foul at will with no foul calls made against them, but if a defender comes within a foot of them there will be a foul against that defender and if they actually miss a shot the refs will make a call against any member of the apposing team simply because the superstar missed, so it must have been a fouls against someone. I am so disguted with the officials in the NBA that I discourage any young player I deal with from watching the NBA games so as not to think that the game is actually supposed to be called that way. It is an outright disgrace to watch the officiating in a lot of the NBA games. They should be getting fined for the obvious bias not the coaches for complaining about it.

  4. Arky says

    I don’t think the coaches (and Mark Cuban) are complaining any more than usual tbh. I don’t watch every game, but the refereeing doesn’t seem to be any worse than usual (not to say it’s great, just not noticeably worse than usual). The occasional awful game as usual. And yes, home refereeing IS noticeable… not that it doesn’t happen in a lot of sports, and is arguable a contributing factor to the very existence of home court advantage in an indoor sport with identical courts like basketball….they might want to ask the refs to give more no-calls on contact where the defender goes straight up or very close to it, offensive players seem to get the benefit of the doubt here a bit too often and an endless parade of free throws where a guard just drives into traffic looking for contact gets a bit tiresome.

  5. Mike Saunders says

    With two admitted blown calls earlier in the season with the Raps on the wrong end on those calls, you might also argue that the league felt that they had reached their apologies to the Raptors. I mean how would it look if the Raps miss the last playoff spot by like 3 games and the league has ended up admitting that they blew calls in 3 games. There is another blown call in the game that Toronto blew to Philly a few weeks ago where Alan Anderson is clearly pushed out of bounds with the Raps trying to inbound the ball in the dying seconds of regulation.

  6. stepxxxxz says

    bravo chris. This whole season has been shockingly bad in terms of officiating. Just terrible. And its time for the next commissioner (because thank christ stern is leaving) stops with the favoritism to star players. Kobe, LBJ, Durant…….these guys get calls that absurd……and they , frankly, should be embarrassed. There is no reason not to have good refs, and call the game fairly. Also………can we stop with the gifts to offensive players when they drive to the basket. They get fouls called around 75% of the time by my count. Mostly these are not fouls, but contact initiated by the ball handler. The defender will not move, will raise hands straight, and get run into and called for a foul. It means, essentially, that there is no way to defend guys who drive to the basket a half step ahead of their primary defender. Its a joke.

    • says

      je ne pense pas que ce soit pareil dans les beaux quartiers ou l’on vote Sarkozy.Le grand démocrate fait tout pour éviter les inscriptions sur les listes électorales et pour favoriser l’abstention qui doivent l&;.uqoravantagersAvec Sarkozy la france est devenue une république bananière.

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