Referee Lockout Developments: They Stink!


So, as you may or may not already know, the NBA has locked its referees out of the league due to the inability of the NBA and the NBRA (National Basketball Referee Association) to reach an agreement on the referee contracts.

“Although they have agreed on the broad parameters of a deal, the N.B.A. and the National Basketball Referees Association remain at odds over proposed changes in retirement benefits.”

This means that barring some kind of miraculous appearance by Dr. Henry Killinger, the NBA season will begin with refs not in the NBRA. This means NBDL, WNBA, and college refs, retired refs, and most shockingly, fired NBA refs.

NY Times
reports that “The two former referees, Michael Henderson and Robbie Robinson, are among 44 replacements invited to attend training camp this week . . . Both men were fired earlier this decade.” The two refs have a combined 7 years experience between them. The real problem begins when you look at how Henderson did in his stint. He was “publicly censured” and “suspended” for three games, and was fired a year later.

Come-back, Baby!  You and me!  2009!

Come-back, Baby! You and me! 2009!

On top of all this, many of the 44 replacement refs are coming from the college system. Not only is the college game different, but the refereeing expectations there are very different. The actual game differences should not be so bad. However, the stylistic difference will be huge. The college game is predicated on the refs pretty much staying out of the action. There are few fouls calls, and a highly physical level of play in college. It works in college because of a few reasons. Firstly, with the longer shot clock, the game is naturally slower and needs fewer breaks. Secondly, college offenses work more through passing than dribble penetration. Lastly, there is less physical disparity between college big men than there is between NBA big men. It shouldn’t be hard for the refs to learn the different rules of the NBA game. However, the subjective area of physical contact that dictate fouls, charges, and how aggressive someone can be on defense is something that is honed overtime, through consistent exposure and practice.

WNBA refs will have similar difficulties. The WNBA stars play a different pace, and at a different level of athleticism. Though, stylistically, the WNBA is much closer to NBA play than college hoops. NBDL refs should make the easiest transition, since they are reffing the same game, just with less talented players. Regardless the bottom line is the same. The NBA will be functioning with 30 to 40 rookie referees in the 2009-2010 season. Imagine a NBA team starting 4 rookies, with 6 more on the bench. Not good.

If I were an NBA player, I would be deeply concerned. They already despised the call-making of the referees in the NBA, the ones good enough to get and stay there. It’s going to be a tough season dealing with disgraced, fired, and rookie referees. The players union is also headed into talks with the NBA in the near future. Let’s hope this referee lockout is not a sign of things to come.


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