Stern's tech tweak is misguided

Published Nov. 18, 2010 12:00 a.m. EST

In the aftermath of the Tim Donaghy controversy, NBA commissioner David Stern has given his refs even more power to influence games.


The NBA’s new emphasis/guidelines on issuing technical fouls is the equivalent of Auburn University naming Cam Newton’s mama athletics director.

Yeah, Cecil Newton is just a rogue parent. There are no other Newtons looking to trade Cam for Cash.


The previous statement is laughable. Just as laughable as the way Stern is trying to crack down on his players for acting like Rasheed Wallace every time the refs blow a whistle. It’s far too subjective, emotional and personal. It leaves far too much power in the hands of people we know can fall victim to corruption.

Of the numerous steps Stern has taken to enhance the image of his players and appeal to the league’s corporate sponsors -- dress code, harsh rules about fighting, etc. -- the tech rule is the lone one I feel is a massive error.

Allow me to clarify. I agree with Stern’s motive. I object to his solution.

Nothing was worse than watching Rasheed Wallace or another unappreciative, undisciplined NBA prima donna yell at a ref while play continued up the court. It created the impression the player cared more about showing up the referees than actually competing.

You watch the NBA to see the world’s best athletes compete, not bicker with a 45-year-old man.

I’m sure the league’s research with customers showed paying fans were turned off by Rasheed’s gyrations, antics and rants.

Two or three years ago, I began telling my friends who follow the NBA that I wished the league would ban players from speaking to the refs. Only the head coach should be allowed to speak to the refs during play and only an assistant coach and a team captain should be allowed to talk to the refs during a stop in the action.

Stern’s rule now has the refs trying to interpret body language. This is an absolute recipe for corruption and controversy. Nearly every night there’s at least one example of a ref whistling a player for a tech for no good reason. Basically, a ref can give a team a free throw any time he/she wants to.

If there’s another Tim Donaghy in the league, Stern has armed him with a stealth-like weapon for point shaving.

Besides the corruption aspect, there are additional problems.

The new rule is bad for television. A good TV producer captures the emotion of the game. Lamar Odom driving the lane, sinking a shot, pumping his fist and shouting “and 1” is good TV. In the Lakers’ loss to the Suns, instead of being good TV, it was illegal and a momentum killer. The refs hit him with a technical foul and increased Phoenix’s lead to three points late in the game.

Fans don’t want robots. Within reason, we want to see their emotion. Their body language often signals to us how much they care.

Boston’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis is one of my favorite players to watch. He’s oversized and plays the game with great emotion and energy. I don’t want him containing his emotion out of fear he might get a technical for “showing up” a ref.

OK, you know where this is inevitably headed, right?

Someone is going to claim the application of the rule is discriminatory. The players are predominantly black and the refs are predominantly white. The players are predominantly spoiled millionaires. The refs are predominantly not spoiled millionaires. It’s a culture clash, and one group has all the power.

The new rule invites the referees to settle personal scores with players and/or teams they don’t like. It begs the refs to do exactly what Tim Donaghy claimed a percentage of them were already doing.

Again, I support the intent of the rule. Why not let an uninvolved ref seated court side with a television monitor implement the rule? An objective person removed from the action can more fairly make subjective rulings. Create a sideline ref and let that ref use instant replay to determine whether a player was channeling his inner Rasheed Wallace or simply showing the natural emotion that comes from competition.

Has David Stern ever competed as an athlete? If he had, he’d be more reluctant to adopt rules based solely on the recommendation of a focus group.

If the league really wants to make the game more appealing to its corporate customers, make the tatted players wear long-sleeve jerseys. Tats contribute nothing to the game. Player emotion adds to the drama.

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