With just weeks before the start of the NBA preseason the battle between the NBA and the National Basketball Referees Association's (N.B.R.A.) is heating up. According to this report in SLAM Online, the ref's have made a proposal to cut costs but then in the process tweaked the nose of the Emperor himself. They've accused David Stern of negotiating in bad faith and trying to push out the older officials.
Pushing out older officials doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world to me. Not a game goes by that fans aren't screaming at the refs about a blown charge infraction or a crab dribble non-call. The playoff twitter conversation has turned into 70% complaining about the calls (with the other 30% of tweets related to Jeff Van Gundy's def jams).
Bill Simmons famously penned 37,000 words on the topic last May where he called out (in great detail) all the many failings of the NBA officiating core and spelled out some much needed reforms to the
growing aging problem. Simmons wrote:
The NBA's failure to develop a new generation of decent referees might be its single biggest misfire of the past 20 years. You can't tell me that someone in their mid-50s or older has the same eyesight and reaction time as people 20-30 years younger.
So maybe Stern is listening and trying to clean up the league's act and take some steps to improve the officiating. Maybe this isn't all just about the money. Stern's problem is that the solution maybe worse than the disease: replacement refs from the WNBA and D-league.
I think it is safe to say that I have watched more D-league and WNBA games over the past year than 90% of the basketball fans out there. I know this because I see the empty seats in Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, home of the mighty Mad Ants. I know this because I know that a Mad Ant isn't just those little fellers running around the backyard after you spay their hole with the garden hose.
If a lockout comes and the NBA season begins with replacement refs from the "minor leagues" you had better believe we are in for a lot more crab dribbling before things get better.
It might be a price worth paying but for now we can only hope that in the end the league will gets what it wants. More importantly, we had better hope that is the same thing we are looking for - better officiating.