Derek Fisher on replacement referees
Replacement referees are coming. It's not a good thing for the league, players, or fans, but they're coming. Nobody is particularly happy about it, including the Player's Association, over which Derek Fisher presides. Said Fish Wednesday afternoon:
"We feel strongly (as players) that the quality of our games will be better with the officials that have been out there for years, who understand the flow of the game, they understand the personalities of the coaches and how to let the players decide the game. We feel strongly that this season, when you think about the number of teams that are going to be shooting for an NBA title this year that are really good enough to win, one game could be the difference between (getting) home court advantage throughout the playoffs. I don't think anyone wants to lose a game while people are trying to figure out how to get it done out there. It's nothing personal. We don't know many of the replacement referees and who they may be, but feel like our game is much better with the men and women we've become accustomed to working with. It doesn't mean we're going to get along with them every night, but we respect and appreciate what they do."
The NBA notes that most of the replacement have worked either (or both) the D-League or Summer League, and has expressed confidence in their ability to rise to the occasion. That's all at once kind, predictable, and totally unrealistic. Due respect to a group of referees that are no doubt ambitious and hardworking, but just like the players who toil in basketball's minor leagues, there's a reason these guys aren't in the NBA- they don't meet the standard. To pretend otherwise is silly.
The league, despite sending signals that all is well, has essentially admitted this batch of officials isn't as high in quality. Two replacements, Michael Henderson and Robbie Robinson, have NBA experience, but were already fired from that gig. That's not necessarily an indictment of their skill, notes Ron Johnson, the NBA's senior vice president of referee operations. "People don't just get fired because they're incompetent, they get fired because relative to the performance of the staff standard," he told the AP.
Oh. Sounds awesome. The NBA is, in my opinion, the toughest major sport to officiate. Damn near impossible, really. Understanding that, how much fun will it be to watch 62 individuals simultaneously get on the job training? It's disappointing, ahead of a season with so much promise, to have games saddled with these sorts of questions. Small picture, I'm uncomfortable with any situation that makes me miss Joey Crawford. Big picture, the product is going to suffer, and fans along with it.
UPDATE: Mark Cuban notes a possible silver lining in what is generally seen as a major downer.