In the preseason, there was a fair amount of fuss over the NBA’s “respect for the game” initiative. The idea was to crack down on players jawing at officials. The deterrent would be technical fouls, which officials could issue like parking tickets. At first, it was awkward. Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson and Kevin Garnett all drew preseason techs for talking back. Celtics coach Doc Rivers believed that over the course of the season referees and players would reach a happy medium.
According to NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury, there have been just 782 techs issued up to this point this season compared to 866 for all of last year. The Celtics are second in the league with 99 techs. Orlando’s set the bar with 103, and Dwight Howard’s at the point where he gets a suspension for every other tech.
Still, Rivers, who was ejected from a Jan. 28 game against the Suns after drawing two techs, didn’t complain about the new policy.
“It’s evolved the way it should,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “It’s gone back to how it should be, a case by case basis. I think the officials have done a much better job. First of all, they don’t have to do what they did earlier. They understand emotional outburst. That’s why I said from the beginning that I didn’t think we gave the officials enough credit.
“There was a great example we had recently late in a game with Delonte (West). An official thought he had missed a call. He wasn’t sure. But it was a hard foul on Delonte and Delonte had an outburst. The official actually said to me, ‘You know, I could easily have given him a tech. But I knew the guy’s been injured and I think I missed the call. But I just couldn’t make the call, because I wasn’t sure. So I had to let him go.’ To me, that’s great officiating instead of just reacting.”
West, for what it’s worth, remembered that incident late in the Celtics’ win over the Pacers at the Garden earlier this month and said he understood the rules and respected the referees jobs but said it’s a balancing act trying to find the right amount of leeway.
“It’s an emotional game,” West said. “You see in other sports how they kick a ball or tackle somebody, they’re able to express their emotions. For some reason, basketball has turned into the next thing after golf. It’s a gentleman’s game now. Like, ‘Shoot your basket, dunk the ball and run down the floor.
“It’s not like that. Emotional players, we compete. So I think they’ve been doing a great job this year of balancing penalizing players and allowing them to express their emotions.”