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Refs Coming Back?

Several reports Tuesday [1] indicated that the league and the referee’s union are closing in [2] on a labor agreement that would return the regular refs to work and prevent the so so-called “replacement refs” (read: scabs) from working regular season games.

People are of two minds on this one. The casual NBA fan will shrug his or her shoulders and wonder why anyone would care about the refs since they’re all horrible anyway. The hardcore NBA fan, on the other hand, is smiling a little bit today because the thought of a 60-foul, 3+ hour game is no good for anyone.

Throughout the preseason it became rather obvious that the replacements weren’t up the speed of the NBA game, which led to a number of ticky tack calls after the original foul. Despite a directive from the league to not talk about the refs, complaints had begun to surface.

Charlotte [3] coach Larry Brown [4] was fined $60,000 [5], while Memphis [6] coach Lionel Hollins was fined $25K [7] for saying the refs favored Magic [8] center Dwight Howard [9]. Not surprisingly, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy [10] didn’t like the insinuation. Plus he had already been docked $35,000 [11] for criticizing the refs in a separate incident. (Perhaps Hollins didn’t get the memo that the Magic don’t get any respect from the media, the league or the zebras).

The final straw may have been an exhibition game between the Knicks [12] and Maccabi Tel Aviv, in which Maccabi coach Pini Gershon was ejected and refused to leave the court [13] for an extended time. According to a report by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Maccabi had paid $500,000 to play the game and was using the money from the game to benefit an Israeli orphanage.

International incidents aside, the return of the regular refs in time for the start of the regular season is good news for the league, the players and believe it or not, the fans as well.