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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.Derek Fisher fist pump 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.


Comments () | Archives (15)

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these are just typical union negotiations. there may be a period of time in which replacement refs are used, but before long both sides will come to an agreement and this will no longer be a story. you can't blame one party or the other. they're both trying to improve their own situation. you can just hope both sides are negotiating in good faith and with reasonable expectations and understanding of each other's position.

and, of course the player's union sides with the refs - they're up next for negotiations with the nba.

To be honest I'm kind of on the fence about this. Simmons had an article that basically stated most current NBA refs were too old (60+) to be expected to keep up with the modern athletic game, and that most younger refs (sans Donaghy) were doing a better job. I gotta see who the replacement refs are before judging against the pros, but compared to football or baseball, NBA refs are sorely lacking.


I get why it's happening, but I just think it's unfortunate. I do think the league is making a point here that's intended more for the players than the refs themselves. And if, as some suppose, that's the case, I think it's a very shortsighted move. The amount of money being negotiated by the league and the ref's union is, by NBA standards, paltry. To risk damaging the product and hurting fan interest in a down economy seems counterproductive, unless the point is to drive down revenues even more (which, as a cynic might point out, could be good for the league because it would put that much more pressure on the players to make concessions in the next CBA) seems odd.

But mostly, I'm writing this as someone who likes to watch NBA basketball played at the best level possible, and this hurts that. The issue isn't whether or not there are some refs that should be replaced- in any group, there likely will be- or that some of the replacements aren't NBA caliber- some probably are and could be better than the group that's there. But to take 62 people and make them rookies at the highest level at the same time? Even if they were all officiating prodigies, there's no way it would work well. There's a learning curve.


At least there's not time for these guys to become corrupt, like many of the ones they are replacing.

Will the players be more or less abusive to them?

I also don't think that there is much sympathy for the Refs. They are universally hated.

Now, if the Laker Girls walk, then we might be upset.

BK - where do negotiations stand currently? Are they still at the table or have they reached an impasse? Is there any sense of a timetable? What are the largest roadblocks?

dave m

It seems like if what you say is true, and I believe it is, fans should email David Stern and flood him with emails to get a deal done!! Just one fans suggestion.

I nominate Jon K to ref all the Cavs games.

I am philosophical about the officials situation. The rules state that the officials are part of the game. That is true in general as well. Whether replacements or the current fraternity, they are part of the game. You deal with them. Period.

Even the greatest make mistakes (Ed Hoculie best example of this). You deal with it. Jerry Crawford has been roasted over and over again. You deal with it. Only the illegal (Mr. Donaghe) is out of bounds. That is not tolerated.

So, whether to start the season or arriving at a later time into the season, the "real refs" will be around ~ and we will deal with it. If replacements start the season ~ we will deal with it. Really similar to injuries. You just gotta deal with it.

If there is any silver lining for those of us partial to the Lakers, it would be this. We have a HEAVY HOME SCHEDULE over the first 21 games. Less experienced officials are much more likely to be "affected" by the home crowd. Odds are in our favor to gain an advantage here and there due to a few such calls along the way. We will deal with it.

Previous referees have too many biases. I'm okay with scrubs.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.



"I nominate Jon K to ref all the Cavs games."

Sign me up.


In all seriousness, that would happen twelve times a game.

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.


BK -

You said: "The issue isn't whether or not there are some refs that should be replaced- in any group, there likely will be- or that some of the replacements aren't NBA caliber- some probably are and could be better than the group that's there. But to take 62 people and make them rookies at the highest level at the same time?"

I agree with you that it's not ideal to replace an entire staff of workers - you're bound to get a deterioration in product, no matter what the business is (teachers, cars, actors, etc.). But, what are the options here? It's a union, so they negotiate as a unit. Either they are all on board or none are. That's just the way it is. Personally, I don't like unions, partly for this reason, but I see their value in making sure the employer doesn't abuse its position of power.

My question for you is: why is it automatically the assumption that the league is being unfair and short-sighted in not accepting the referee's "paltry" concession? These are two parties of relative power in negotiation. If a deal fails to come together, it's on both parties. Besides, labor is a market-driven resource just like any other input. If the officials are unhappy with their current compensation, they are free to go elsewhere. The league is under no obligation to pay them more than the market demands. And, the replacement refs are serving as a floor in that market.

Your argument that the deterioration of product quality is reason enough for the league to accept the official's demands are reasonable, in theory. But, I see it equally plausible that the quality of NBA games doesn't go down that much, that viewers don't notice, and that people move on. I mean, fans already complain to high hell about the officiating - could it get that much worse?

I have no problem withe replacements. They are from the D league, Summer league and D1 college. It would be no different if these new refs were coming in to replace "Retiring" veteran refs. If that was the situation no one would comment on the new guy working in the "bigs".

But because this indoctrination seems force or premature, there are those who are opposed to it.

I do not want to see Crawford back in the league (yes him specifically). I would imagine that there are several other refs that are not deserving of being there. As fans we do not know the full qualities and qualifications of some of the dudes that have been starting refs for the NBA.

K-Bros. I pose this request to you. Please take this post and re-address it 2-3 months after the season begins and comment on the quality of referred games at that point. Let's see where the game is out and how good the new refs are doing at that point.


No question, since we're talking about labor negotiations and collective bargaining, it changes the landscape (though I would argue that generally, labor unions and collective bargaining in sports negotiations has a different context than your more mainstream variety, but that's a much longer conversation). I don't debate that, I'm just lamenting what I think will be a negative effect on the game. I'd love to be wrong, but don' t think I will be.

I don't think the NBA "owes" anything to the referees per se, but they owe the fans a great product given what it costs to go see a game, and to me this hurts the product. Not saying the refs deserve the world, but my point was that relative to the larger economic pie, the figures being debated here are relatively small, and my feeling is (I'm not on the inside here by any stretch and am relying on what I read and some conversations I've had) that the league is drawing a hard line with the officials not because they're all that concerned about the $ with them, but because of the player negotiations coming soon that are far more financially consequential. As a fan of basketball, that's disappointing.

As to your last question... of course it could get worse. :)


Give the refs the COLA increase and move on.

We have games to be played.



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