Players can't talk about techs, but we can

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
11:42
AM ET
Harper By Zach Harper
ESPN.com
Archive
There was quite an outrage Wednesday night on Twitter regarding the new technical foul policy/enforcement. As you can imagine, it came from a lot of Celtics fans who are upset that Kevin Garnett could be ejected from the game for arguing a technical foul given to Jermaine O’Neal.

When I first heard about the new tech policy, I immediately thought of what Jason Thompson was going to do now that he’ll no longer be able to yell his patented “Are you KIDDING me?” when he gets called for a foul. My second thought was, “Oh my God, what are the Celtics going to do?”

The Celtics are a fiery bunch. Even without Rasheed Wallace, guys like KG and Kendrick Perkins, and really everybody else, get very vocal with the officials. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s within the confines of the rules and in good taste. The problem now is those confines have been restricted by the NBA, and after Wednesday night’s game it’s clear they are being enforced a lot tighter. The outcry on the Internet is that it’s a travesty and a sham and a mockery.

This traveshamockery is going to ruin the league and make it so players can’t even talk to officials anymore, right? I disagree.

While the players have a job to do -- and it’s not always fairly ruled whether or not they’re doing it by the rules -- the referees have a job to do as well. Nobody wants to have expletives thrown their way while doing their job. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with the actual policy the league is implementing, but I do know I can respect the spirit behind it.

This one incident involving Garnett is going to rile up the masses, and I guess that’s fine. This policy needs to be discussed, but it needs to be discussed in a proper and mature manner because that’s really what this is about. I know a lot of people are calling out David Stern and saying this new policy is simply a way to cover up the ineptitude of the NBA’s officiating. I don’t know if I agree with that, but with the reputation the league has garnered over the last decade, I don’t know that I can necessarily dismiss it either.

Adrian Wojnarowski certainly seems to think this is a way for the league to avoid the problem:
Yes, referees should give techs to players who overreact. But now you get a technical for reacting. That’s an immense difference, and there’s no majority of NBA fans anywhere who ever demanded these changes from the league. This way, the league never has to address the putrid nature of its officiating. If players aren’t reacting to bad calls, they must not have been bad calls.

This is not a good thing for the NBA by any means. But is it wrong?

Fans will argue that emotional outbursts are all part of the game and they like to see some fire from their players. I can’t really disagree with that either. But if these players are going to be professionals, shouldn’t they have to conduct themselves in a professional manner?

I’m all for being passionate and competitive. However, acting like a responsible adult is far more important when you’ve got a lot of impressionable youths watching your every mannerism on the court. Should they be role models to kids? No. Are they a huge influence on the kids? Before I answer that, I want to finish watching this commercial about basketball shoes the players are trying to sell me.

The players have been given a lot of rope with the way they talk to officials over the past few years. Clearly, David Stern thinks they’ve lost those privileges to question refs because of their actions.

Would it help if the referees were better at their job? Absolutely.

But isn’t it lazy to just blame the refs? I don’t want to blame the refs. The NBA rules are left open to interpretation and a system like that doesn’t leave a ton of room for consistency throughout the profession. It’s easy to call this new policy – or NBA officiating in general – stupid.

This one isolated issue is going to be the benchmark for the fight against the new technical foul policy. A preseason game in which the outcome mattered to absolutely nobody will be the reason people hate this rule for an entire year or longer. But maybe the rule is a good idea. Maybe players should have to earn back the privilege to discuss questionable calls.

Doc Rivers seems to agree with this new edict even though it probably affects his team the most.
"It is what it is. We've got to live with it. It's a new, kinder, gentler me. What can you do? Listen, I do think, as a league, it's about all of us. It's not just the officials, the players or the coaches. It's all of us. We have to keep making this a better product and a lot of people smarter than me have decided this is what we need to do. Then that's what we have to do: Adhere to it. I don't think that's that hard."

Ultimately, this policy is a good thing for the time being, but not because players shouldn’t be able to question the officiating. It’s a good thing because it forces us (and yes, this includes the NBA and David Stern as well) to discuss the state of officiating. Even if the players have to be mum on the subject, the subject is still out there to be debated.

Just debate it in a calm and mature manner. Otherwise, you’ll probably be ejected.

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