Blaming referees for losses is as integral to sports as scoreboards, but Kevin Durant is sticking up for them (the zebras, not the electronics).
On Monday, the NBA announced that officials made two critical late-game errors in the Warriors’ 109-108 Christmas-day loss to the Cavs: one, LeBron James should have received a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk, and two, Richard Jefferson should have been whistled for his aggressive defense on Durant on the game’s final possession.
While Warriors fans may have felt vindicated by the NBA’s statement, Durant was irate, saying, “The refs didn’t lose us that game. We lost that game. I think it’s (expletive) the NBA throws the refs under the bus like that. . . . Just move on. Don’t throw the refs under the bus like that. . . . You can’t fine us for when we go out there and criticize them and then throw them under the bus for the two-minute report. What about the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter? I think it’s (expletive). They should get rid of (the reports). Refs don’t deserve that.”
Wow, an NBA superstar sticking up for officials? You better believe it.
Is Durant right, though? Has the NBA gotten a little too transparent with its officiating?
“Well, if you recall, back when I was a part of the league office, what we did was selectively release publicly whether calls were right or wrong that people viewed as game-deciding calls,” former NBA coach and executive and current NBA-TV analyst Stu Jackson told Jody McDonald, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “So we would issue a statement and say, ‘Well, the referees got it wrong’ or ‘The referees got it right’ – only on selective games at key times. Now, in the interest of the NBA wanting to be more transparent and provide more information to fans, media and basketball aficionados, they started this two-minute report, which discloses every call that’s made in the last two minutes of a game that is five points or less in those last two minutes. So it’s a little bit different strategy here in terms of trying to be more transparent.
“But as I look at Kevin Durant’s comments, there’s a real rub here,” Jackson continued. “And the rub is as a player – and as a referee – you are in a special fraternity, and that is that fraternity that night in and night out are in the arena, fighting with the blood and the sweat and the decisions and having to perform together, even though many times you’re on opposite sides as referees and players. Versus the league office that has a little bit different agenda, which is to obviously provide information to the fans, entertain fans, and in that way, there’s a real separation there that’s undeniable. And I think if you look and dissect Kevin Durant’s comments, he is telling you or speaking from the heart as one of the people that’s in the arena of competition, which is different than I think the clear objective of the league, which is, I think, to be more transparent – and you can’t fault either side.
“But that being said, I think the best point that Kevin Durant made was perhaps if they’re going to provide that information, provide them for all games – every call in all games – every day. At least that would be something that didn’t pinpoint and, as he says, throw the referees under the bus in close games with tight calls.”