This is not Known Officiating Target Draymond Green we’re talking about (who, ironically, was the one trying to cool down his teammate’s head), but Kevin Durant: a player who has had very little on-court trouble in his storied NBA career.
Let this sink in: Durant’s second tech of the game led to his fourth ejection in this 2017-18 NBA season alone.
Kevin Durant leads the NBA with four ejections this season; he was ejected once during his first 10 NBA seasons combined.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 24, 2018
He was ejected only one other time during his entire 10-plus-year NBA career.
The Player-Referee War of 2018
Conflicts between players and referees is rooted in the more sordid side of NBA history.
Former coach turned ESPN talking head, Jeff Van Gundy, stated as recently as last week that “the players are literally out of their mind” for what, he calls, complaining on every play.
Although Van Gundy admitted in this commentary that the league is basically in development season for its officiating crew, it is head-scratching that this would be his take. As coach for the Houston Rockets, Van Gundy was fined $100,000 by the league following his comments that refs were targeting his star player, Yao Ming, as payback for prior comments Van Gundy had made about the refs.
At the time, former NBA Commissioner David Stern said, “If he’s going to say things like that, he’s not going to continue in this league. If the attitude reflected in those comments continues to be public, he’s going to have a big problem with me as long as I’m commissioner.”
It looks like Stern made good on his promise and that little has changed in the perception that players, coaches and fans have about NBA referees — many, of whom, consider some calls to be dubious (at best) or corrupt (at worst).
Tone-deaf Stern made these comments in 2005 — just two years before now-disgraced official Tim Donaghy resigned in the wake of a betting scandal involving organized crime. Stern tried to paint Donaghy in the image of a lone bad actor. But during his testimony in open court, Donaghy made claims about league complicity in predetermining the outcomes of games.
He reiterated these claims in a 2015 interview with Ashley Branca for The Guardian newspaper:
“[T]he only thing that I can talk about is what the officials had a part in. What the league office does, they don’t consult the referees. They just kind of tell us how to call the games. And when you tell somebody how to call a game, at times it puts one team at an advantage or a disadvantage.”
Earlier in the interview, Donaghy aptly pointed out that fans today are quite educated on the game and, therefore, would not be fooled easily.
Hey, NBA: Quit gaslighting literally everyone.
So, why does the league — and the likes of talking heads, like Van Gundy — try to convince players, coaches and fans that the sky is green when everyone sees that it is blue?
What incentives must be present for the league to perpetuate such brazen dishonesty? Considering the NBA is a billion-dollar-per-year industry, it is hard to imagine that this is an issue of denial. Thus, the league is in desperate need of new strategies to deal with an ongoing issue that previously caused viewership to tank.
If the games are predetermined, why bother watching? fans asked in the wake of the Donaghy mess ... before they stopped watching altogether.
“ ... and he went into halftime probably with an attitude.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Durant knows a fine is coming.
But perhaps he took this one not only for the team, but for the whole league.
“Look at my first tech,” Durant said, after the game. “I got the rebound and I dribbled the ball hard, and he teched me up. He was searching for me. He was looking to try to tech me up to get me back because he’s still in his feelings from the first half. That’s what’s been going on around the league the whole year.”
It is a similar type of alleged retaliatory officiating that landed Van Gundy with a six-figure fine in his coaching days. And, almost daily, the league releases statements of correction concerning bad calls in the previous nights’ games — many of which have determined the outcomes of games.
Handing out technical fouls to players and coaches for pointing out errant officiating during a game, and then fining the hell out of them if they dare to speak about it after the game, is. not. working.
Moreover, trying to silence the players and coaches is an affront to fans who know the game and know what they saw ... who, then, turn off the game in frustration, with uneasy feelings of corruption hanging stagnant in the air.