NEW YORK -- With referees whistling technical fouls against players for even the slightest of complaints, the NBA players union issued a strongly worded statement Thursday threatening legal action and saying the changes "may actually harm our product."
"The new unilateral rule changes are an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league's behalf," NBPA director Billy Hunter said. "We have not seen any increase in the level of 'complaining' to the officials and we believe that players as a whole have demonstrated appropriate behavior toward the officials.
"Worse yet, to the extent the harsher treatment from the referees leads to a stifling of the players' passion and exuberance for their work, we fear these changes may actually harm our product. The changes were made without proper consultation with the players association, and we intend to file an appropriate legal challenge," he said.
The NBA did not immediately comment on Hunter's statement.
In an effort to curb the amount of complaining about calls, NBA referees have been instructed to whistle technical fouls against players who made demonstrative gestures, who continue complaining after being warned to stop or who approach the officials in an aggressive manner. The NBA has also warned assistant coaches to stay seated or risk being assessed a technical foul.
Through the first 59 games of the preseason, there have been 69 technical fouls called against players and coaches for violations other than defensive three-second violations. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, on Oct. 14, 2009, there had been 51 technical fouls called through the first 62 preseason games.
But the pace of technical fouls being called has picked up noticeably in recent days, with 23 techs being called in nine games Tuesday night and 13 being called in seven games Wednesday.
Boston's Kevin Garnett was ejected from Wednesday night's Celtics-Knicks game, drawing two technical fouls for complaining about a technical foul called against teammate Jermaine O'Neal. In the same game, Knicks center Timofey Mozgov was given a technical foul for mumbling in Russian as he walked past one of the referees.
And while Hunter's statement said players are opposed to the changes, at least one player disagrees.
"It may take a while to get adjusted, any time something that severe is changed. You're used to playing a certain way, you're used to certain reactions. It may take a while for guys to get used to it, but we'll adjust. Again, it's for the betterment of the NBA, it's the betterment of teams and players, so we have to adjust," Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said before being asked if he believes the tighter technical foul rules make for a better product. "Absolutely. It makes it a clean game, a fun game. You let the officials do their jobs, and we do ours."
Here was Boston coach Doc Rivers' take: "It is what it is. You've just got to live with it. What can you do? Listen, I do think as a league it's about all of us. It's not just the officials and the players and the coaches. We've got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so people smarter than me have decided this is what we need to do, so we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don't think it's that hard.
"I think it'll come to it eventually not being a knee-jerk thing. I think officials will have a better feel on it," Rivers said. "We're going to figure it out, it's just gonna take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don't get it yet. They're trying to figure it out, and it'll get figured out by game one."