Fans pay big money to see their favorite player do their work in person. Most often than not, the experience justifies the money spent. But, there are few instances where they come out of the arena disappointed, usually for the same reasons; either their guy has an off-night, gets injured throughout the game, or fouls out. The latter is always the most frustrating.
Players-officials dynamic in the NBA is an interesting one, and it has undoubtedly changed over the years. It seemed much more personal before, in the way of players being able to approach the refs, and discuss stuff with them. Even throw in an occasional inappropriate word. It seems they could get away with it much easier than today.
Today's players don't have that luxury. Refs have become far less accessible, and are showing less flexibility towards players. It seems like they are using a lot more formal approach of 'I'm doing my job, and you don't get to interfere with it.' And you know what? Neither fans nor players like it.
The overall feel around the league is that refs are trying too hard to make it about themselves. There's too much ego involved, and they are trying to get into the spotlight. Some of them are taking nothing from the players. They can't say anything. You've always had guys like that, and we shouldn't pretend that they are a new specimen just for his time. But it seems that refs like that are taking over the league.
So how do you manage them? Well, first of all, you have to be wise with who you are trying to manage. Because let's face it, some are not up for it, and you can only harm the team in attempting to approach them.
"As the star player, you got to know which guys you can impact and effect to help the team out."
Chauncey Billups, ESPN
The ones who are approachable, you have to show some level of respect. Things will be said in effect, since basketball is an emotional game to play, and some frustration will always be released. But a certain level of appreciation has to be shown. If none of that doesn't work, you have to be patient and subtle. T-Mac knows about it.
“A lot of these guys, especially in our era, had tricks that they'd do, especially for good offensive players. I take you back to when we were playing Philadelphia at home, and Eric Snow had all the tricks in the bag. When I used to go up and shoot, he would nudge me a little, and the refs couldn't see that. I would go to them and tell them if he missed the call, to look at it at half time. He'd come out and let me know; he'd missed that call.”
Tracy McGrady, ESPN
It's the right way of dealing with it, but it requires a level of frustration management that not all players possess.
Whatever way you approach them, it should never be about the refs. It should only be about the players because they are the ones fans come to see. Officials are an integral part of an NBA game, but they should never be the main focus of one.
“When you have 18 thousand fans, a hundred million viewers on TV, they didn't come to watch the star player get kicked out. There's big money involved in this.”
Paul Pierce, ESPN
There may not be an official rule for it, but you don't touch the league's superstars. You don't make them foul out, especially in the regular-season. That's just how the NBA works. And the refs should be able to stand aloof. It should never be solely about them.
Until they learn to put their egos aside, players can use T-Mac's footprint of managing the officials. It's universally applicable in the NBA circles.