One of the top stories in the NBA this season has been the suddenly apparent deterioration of the relationship between players and referees. The issue has led the president of the NBPA and the referees’ association to plan a meeting between top stars and top refs at All-Star Weekend to try and work out their issues.
In the meantime, tensions remain high, and it has led to a number of contentious moments on the court. A shocking number of star players have found themselves heading to the locker room early after arguing calls with referees. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have each earned their first ejections of their careers this season, while Draymond Green and Kevin Durant have caught the heave-ho on many occasions.
The most recent of those for Green came on a pair of technicals that can best be described as soft, although Green might have a different word for them. The Warriors’ All-Star big man found himself ejected early in the second quarter against Memphis after picking up two quick technicals.
Green was not pleased with those calls and made his displeasure known with some eyebrow-raising comments to The Athletic’s Anthony Slater (via CBS Sports). Green went so far as to suggest the league needs to fix the issue of tensions between players and refs by getting all new referees to avoid the preexisting personal issues he feels many have with him and other players.
“It’s bad,” Green told The Athletic. “It’s horrible. It’s really bad. I don’t know why it is. But I think it’s ridiculous. It’s ruining the game. … It should be one of, if not the main priority, to be solved. It definitely should.”
Green has grown so frustrated with the situation that, when asked for a possible solution, he threw out a radical idea.
“They can get a new crop (of referees), a whole new crop,” Green said. “Too many personal things going on. Too much me against you. It just don’t work that way.”
This is obviously not going to go over well with the referees’ association or the league, as Green is effectively suggesting the NBA fire everyone and hire an all new crop of refs. He also fails to acknowledge that any of the fault lies with the players, opting instead to accuse refs of indulging their personal vendettas — Green has long had a persecution complex when it comes to the referees and them handing him technicals (or the league handing him a fine).
There is absolutely a problem in the NBA right now involving players and refs, but neither side is absolved of blame. Players have long crossed lines in berating officials, and the constant barking at refs over every call tends to drown out their legitimate grievances. Referees, for their part, need to be better about having those conversations with players and, as LeBron James has said, admit when they make a mistake rather than turn their shoulder.
Tensions will always exist between players and refs, but the relationship right now is as bad as it’s been in recent memory. The idea that changing all the referees out wholesale would fix things is ridiculous, but Green is right that something needs to be done. Hopefully, the upcoming All-Star meeting can bring some kind of resolution to the problem before we end up with a much more high profile incident in the playoffs, where the stakes are higher.