NEW YORK — Tired of players complaining, the NBA plans to crack down this season on “overt” gestures, such as swinging a fist in the air in anger.
Also, players can be called for technical fouls even if those actions weren’t directed at a referee.
The league wants more respect for the game and for its officials, so it’s expanding the list of unsportsmanlike actions that will be punishable.
“Why are we doing this? We just want to have everyone take ownership of how our game looks and the image of our game, and send a message that we want player complaining to be minimized and foreveryone to have respect for the game,” executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said Friday during a conference call.
Apparently, the calls to cut out the complaining go beyond the league office.
“Our fan research shows that people think NBA players complain too much and they do so much more than players in other leagues,” Jackson said. “But that aside, in reviewing our games, what we have observed is an excessive amount of complaining to referees’ calls or non-calls.”
So for the second time in four years, the NBA is warning players that more technical fouls could be coming if the complaining doesn’t stop. The crackdown during the 2006-07 season ignited a feud with the players, who eventually filed an unfair labor practice charge against the league with the National Labor Relations Board.
Jackson doesn’t expect this one to be as tense, as he emphasized this is not a “zero-tolerance policy” and that players will still be permitted to have discussions with referees if done so courteously.
Players may have a different feeling once they see some of what could earn them a technical foul and the automatic fine that goes with it — which Jackson said may increase this season.
On Thursday night, executives from the referee operations department showed videos of some plays that would warrant technicals this season to officials and media during the referees’ training camp in Jersey City, N.J.
In one play, Carlos Boozer swings his arm in anger after a missed shot, likely believing he was fouled. However, there was not a referee nearby, leaving open the possibility that Boozer was perhaps angry with himself and not yelling at an official.
In another, LeBron James hurries across the court with his arms raised to question a call that went against him, but not in a particularly menacing manner.
That doesn’t matter. Jackson said actions like those slow the game down and won’t be tolerated.
“The best mindset for everyone to take in a player’s mind is really abstinence, and that is to not complain,” Jackson said.
“Again, the focus here is to just play the game. We have a great game, great players and we have a great product. And let’s focus on executing offense and defense, and being highly competitive, because complaining doesn’t have a part in our game and complaining has never changed a non-call to a call, or a call to a non-call. So focus on playing the game.”
Besides punching the air, other examples of punishable offenses this season that Jackson listed include:
—Waving off an official as a sign of disrespect
—Running up to an official from across the court
—Waving arms in disbelief, or jumping up and down in disbelief
—Clapping sarcastically at an official
Coaches were already told of the new enforcement plans, along with another point of emphasis this season: There will be an “almost zero-tolerance policy” on assistant coaches yelling at the referees.
Players will learn the details in a preseason memo, and also during a clinic given to their teams by referee operations officials.
Technical fouls rose early in the 2006-07 season, which angered players in part because of what it costs them. Players are fined $1,000 for each of their first five technicals. The fine increases by $500 for each five after that, capped by a $2,500 penalty for each one starting with the 16th. A one-game suspension also comes at that point and for every other technical thereafter.
Jackson said the league hadn’t determined how much those fines would be this season. He believes there has been some “slippage” in enforcing the respect for the game guidelines in the last four years, but wants it curbed.
“Player complaining is not really needed in our game and has no place in the game,” he said.