Bernucca: Time for NBA referees to snap out of it

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TWO MINUTES: Our Most Improved Player Rankings probably have done a bit of a disservice to Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler, who has been thrust into a huge role by injuries to multiple teammates and has been playing out of his mind. In 10 games since Jan. 18, Butler is averaging 14.9 points with 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 39.5 minutes, while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 90 percent from the line. Butler has filled frontcourt spots vacated by injuries to Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer while also taking shooting guard minutes away from Richard Hamilton. “I think it hit home the most when Luol came up to me and said, ‘You can do this. This is your time, step in and keep playing the way you have been playing,’” Butler said. “When you hear that from an All-Star, from Derrick (Rose) and Jo (Joakim Noah), that’s big.” Said Deng, “I’m just so happy for him that because it takes time to understand the NBA game. There are still a lot of areas he can get better at, but what he’s shown so far is just his hard work and he’s going to keep getting better.” Given coach Tom Thibodeau’s emphasis on defense, don’t be surprised if Butler plays more than Hamilton in the postseason. … Here’s the definition of piling on: In Saturday’s 120-81 home win over the Kings, the Knicks took 14 3-pointers – including one by Kurt Thomas – after opening a 74-43 lead midway through the third quarter. … Saturday’s loss in Cleveland completed a run of 12 road contests in 15 games for Oklahoma City, which emerged from that stretch with a 10-5 mark. Not bad, but not good enough to hold onto the top seed in the West. They were overtaken by San Antonio, which completed a run of seven home games in 10 contests – and won ‘em all. But the Spurs now start their annual “Rodeo Road Trip,” a nine-game trek until their next home contest on Feb. 27. That is the same day the Thunder wrap up a stretch of seven home dates in 10 games, so expect some more jockeying before the teams enter March probably separated by no more than a game. … In his last eight games, Hawks swingman Kyle Korver is shooting an unfathomable 61 percent (34-of-56) from 3-point range. To match that efficiency with the same number of 2-point shots, you would have to shoot 92 percent (51-of-56). … The Heat love to use their defense to create transition offense but have been unable to do that in two meetings with the Pacers. Miami has a grand total of eight transition points in two losses to Indiana this season. Of course, the Pacers also held a 2-1 lead on the Heat in last year’s playoffs and didn’t win again. “It’s good to beat them, but we can’t overreact to this,” David West said. “We match up with them.” … According to Elias, when the Lakers went 0-7 on the road in January, it was the first time in franchise history they went winless on the road in a complete month. … Andrew Bogut has returned for the Warriors, and while he is not playing in back-to-back games and looks a half-step behind the action, he is still finding ways to contribute in limited minutes. In three games, Bogut is averaging 10.3 points in 24.3 minutes. More important, he also has amassed 20 rebounds and 11 blocks, numbers that transfer to averages of 9.8 boards and 5.28 blocks per 36 minutes. And his presence on the defensive end has been noticed. “I felt like I became a better defender tonight because he’s constantly talking to me and constantly rotating to get my back,” said forward David Lee, who played a lot of undersized center in Bogut’s absence. Bogut’s return also has rookie center Festus Ezeli picking up garbage time minutes after starting most of the season. We love Ezeli’s physical presence, but he couldn’t score in a brothel; Golden State is much better off with a limited Bogut in the middle. … Much was made of Nets forward Reggie Evans devaluing the Heat’s title because it came in a “lockout season” and saying LeBron James was “no different from Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche.” While those certainly were heavy words, somewhat overlooked was what Nets forward Gerald Wallace said after James and Miami responded with a 20-point beatdown of Brooklyn. “Typical Nets basketball,” Wallace said. “We don’t play together. Careless turnovers. We don’t execute offensively. And defensively, we don’t do anything. We don’t defend. We don’t guard the ball. We don’t help each other out. It’s the same story as it’s been all season.” Wow.

Trivia Answer: Milwaukee (Michael Redd) and Sacramento (Brad Miller, Peja Stojakovic). … Happy 30th Birthday, Dajuan Wagner. … For a change, Russell Westbrook might want to try yelling at reporters and not talking to teammates.

Chris Bernucca is the deputy editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.

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  1. 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. 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.

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