Two nights ago, Devin Booker got ejected in overtime, and everyone expressed their frustration with the fact the referees are yet again taking over the game. The collective feeling of NBA fans can be summed up with a tweet from Kevin O’Connor.
That Devin Booker ejection is ridiculous. No one is tuning in for the referees. What a joke. The officiating is a major issue. Adam Silver needs to do something about it.— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 3, 2021
Less than 24 hours later, a lot of us felt like we are in a time loop. Last night we had another great matchup between the two hottest teams in the NBA, the Jazz and the Sixers. Instead of talking about the amazing close game, and Joel Embiid’s mind-blowing three to take to the game to overtime, we are talking about the referees. Donovan Mitchell got ejected for two techs he got in OT, and that seemed to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Spida will be making a hefty donation soon.
“This is getting out of hand… This is getting fu**ing ridiculous. I’m sick of it. We all are. This is something, it eats at me”Donovan Mitchell, postgame interview
The crucial moment here was a foul called on Gobert late in the game that sent Embiid to the line. To be fair, Gobert did shove Embiid while he was attempting a lyup, and I think that was a fair call – Mitchell’s protests after that call earned him his first tech, and complaining about it 20 seconds later the second one that resulted in the ejection.
“We’re nice, we don’t complain, like, we don’t get frustrated, we fight through things, and the fact that we continually get … screwed, in a way, by this.”Donovan Mitchell, postgame interview
Mitchell’s overall point is well taken. The refs have dominated close games all season, and teams that haven’t been complaining often get the short end of the stick. We saw guys like Trae Young act much worse and get away with it simply because he has a reputation of complaining all the time. That way, the refs are sending a message it’s best to be Chris Paul 2.0.
This is what happens when you don’t address one of the most pressing issues in the league. Mitchell’s reaction wasn’t caused just by his feelings on the Jazz being mistreated this season. Same as fans and reporters, players also see absurd calls on shooters jumping into defenders, stopping after a pick and roll so the trailing defender bumps into you (gotta bring up Trae again), and the 5 min reviews in overtime.
All this deteriorates the credibility of referees in the league, and this is what you get on the other side of it. The same way players who flop all the time don’t get the benefit of the doubt, refs who keep making absurd decisions don’t get it too. Players will have more explosive reactions to things they might not have reacted to in the past if mistakes are not even acknowledged, let alone corrected.
Mark Cuban gave his analysis on the root of the problem. He probably isn’t 100% right, but Cuban is the only owner who had the courage to speak up about the problem. Adam Silver can’t just give interviews on the Jump and answer open-ended questions. The first step in handling this is publicly admitting the refereeing needs to get better and what he plans to do.