As referees face ongoing image problem, a bigger battle looms
The referees can't say anything by rule, and their union doesn't say anything by choice, so when the media, fans and even the NBA criticize, as they did after the controversial non-call at the end of Game 3 in Dallas last weekend, the storm of protest is swallowed, the latest tombstone erected without response. Public perception vs. The Striped Ones: The rout continues.
It has been the case for years, only now the officials are back as a constant topic of discussion in a postseason doing just fine on drama without the near-nightly debates of flagrant fouls, technicals and other forms of jurisprudence.
It's worse because of the other timing issue. These playoffs are the final games on the contract between the NBA and the National Basketball Referees Association. No new deal is in place and neither side is commenting on whether one is forthcoming or if everyone should brace for replacement crews in the fall. The one bit of encouraging news is that this arrangement isn't nearly as complicated as negotiations with players on a new collective bargaining agreement and that, in theory, it could be knocked out in plenty of time even if talks don't start until after the season.
This is the end of the current pact, though, at the very moment that the refs and the league are living the textbook of what they don't want to have happen: NBA execs coming out after a game decision to publicly strike down a call -- yeah, the game officials just love that. But they're going to have to live with it, just as they will the possibility that disciplinary measures against referees will be made public, similar to fines and suspensions against players and coaches being announced. Neither side loves that one, actually, but it is a potential concession in what so far has been a weak attempt to follow through on the promise of greater transparency in their post-Donaghy world.
The sides will be trying to finalize a contract in the worst economic climate since the Depression and with the credibility of the refs and their bosses at league HQ probably somewhere south of Congress and strength of the dollar. Deciding between a block and a charge suddenly doesn't seem so hard. After a 2007-08 season that was hugely successful as a comeback from the scandal, with a lack of news by officials and a refreshing openness by the union and the NBA to humanize the process, the fates have put the refs back in the spotlight.
Some of the top decision makers -- the representatives at the Board of Governors meeting -- have taken to privately daring the refs to push hard in negotiations, a mocking with the awareness that the rank and file of the NBRA have no public support. Some referees have also expressed disappointment at the lack of response from union leaders in the face of criticisms, wanting chief strategist
NFL officials and baseball umpires who miss calls blew it, but NBA refs who miss calls are on the take, says popular perception. Some existence. It has turned again in the worst way at the worst time, with an image problem that won't go away and a contract about to expire amid too much attention on their work.
Everything about the announcement was predictable, how the previously gutted Mullin was out as Warriors personnel boss and
Officially, Mullin's contract will not be renewed after five seasons as executive vice president of basketball operations and he will leave when the current deal expires June 30. Unofficially, he isn't going anywhere. Mullin and Golden State are chained for the foreseeable future, maybe for years, what with his place in this little soap opera the Warriors had going while other organizations put energy into basketball.
It was a season of Mullin being publicly and obviously moved out by president
It's not hard to make the case that Mullin deserved to be fired. He wasted lottery picks (
Rather than doing it at the start of the season and letting Mullin exit with the level of respect he had earned, the Warriors played out the charade. Now they're saying he's still working through June 30. Whatever. It's not like his presence is going anywhere for a while anyway.
• Not merely ending their season with a face plant, the Hornets got their offseason off to a bad start at the same time as
"I think they're getting 60 cents on the dollar," one rival executive said after the first round. "The financial thing is so big. It's bigger than life. It should be easier to move him than that because he's a good player. But it's going to be real tough to get value for him."
• Cut through all the histrionics -- the bitter end to Game 3,
The Mavs were one of the best teams the final month of the regular season, looked good in the first round and could easily envision being 2-2 in the conference semifinals even with
• The sidebar to the Kings' coaching search that gets serious as leading candidate
• The 10 shots Orlando's