When You See an Unfamiliar Referee ...

By Chris Sheridan

Every now and then, you will see a referee working an NBA game who you've probably never heard of (unless you are a habitual D-League viewer).

That is because as part of the two-year labor agreement between the NBA and the referees' union, the league will now be allowed to dole out 50 game assignments to referees from the D-League -- a change the NBA sought in order to get some younger referees some big-league experience.

As part of the compromise that was ironed out a week ago at the league office when the refs' union and the NBA settled their differences, the league agreed to two stipulations regarding those 50 game assignments, ESPN.com has learned:

  • They will only take place during the first three months of the season.

  • The league will make a "good-faith effort" to only bump referees with 10 or more years of experience off when handing out those 50 game assignments.

The NBA had originally asked that it be allowed to use D-League referees for 100 game assignments, then lowered its request to 75, then 50. The sides were also at odds over issues of pension and severance, and no details have yet emerged regarding whether there was any further compromise on those issues.

One referee who had a high-profile behind-the-scenes role in the conflict (and who cannot be quoted by name without violating league rules) said there was a sense from both sides last Friday that it was time for a truce. "It was like everyone was saying: 'If we want to wage an all-out war, let's do it in two years. But not now.' "