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Tension is escalating between the NBA and the Referees’ Union, and is growing even more serious with the Preseason set to open Oct. 1. The union’s contract expired Sept. 1st, and the union and NBA were negotiating a new two year deal. The refs were willing to accept a pay freeze this season and 1% raise next season due to economic hardships, but accuse the NBA of attempting to cut the referees’ budget further.
Lamell McMorris, the spokesman for the referees, accused NBA commissioner David Stern of acting childish and acting surreptitious during negotiations, to which Stern responded by abruptly ending the most recent negotiating session, and removing himself from future negotiations. Any hopes of working out a deal any time soon have been essentially crushed.
This puts the NBA in an interesting position. The referees missing the annual seminar with coaches next week and the potential disruption of the refs’ training camp on Sept. 20 are just the start of it. Already the possibilities of using referees from the NBA’s D-League have been suggested, and McMorris claims that the NBA has been in contact with a referee fired three years ago in an attempt to see if he would be available to work again.
The consequences for all the NBA teams could be quite interesting. Any replacement refs (which haven’t been seen since 1995) likely don’t have the experience of working pro games. The pro games are much more popular and the fans and players are much more energetic than in the minors, creating a powerful atmosphere that might overwhelm the replacement refs. This in turn might lead to more blown and iffy calls on the court.
We’ve all seen Doc Rivers scream like a Jerry Springer guest in recent years whenever the refs make the wrong call; imagine the veins he would burst if those calls were to multiply. Also, can you imagine a world where the Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies face off in the NBA Finals? I doubt anyone would take that bet, even in Vegas, but all it takes is one call to change a close game from a winner into a loser, and that could have playoff implications.
Last season, so much was on the line for playoff seeding on the very last night; the Rockets could have gotten anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 55 seed. Here in Boston, the calls could be helpful for us against the Cavs, Lakers, or any other team like the ones we had issues with last year. Or, it could work in favor of worse teams and lead to another disappointing streak, like last year’s infamous West Coast trip.
Of course, it is entirely possible, and I would say probable, that none of these issues will come to pass. But, it couldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the situation, especially when it might shake up close standings and dictate momentum at the beginning of the season.