(Edit: My initial plan was to write an article about our human nature to feed into the hype of unknown quantities, such as, say, Serge Ibaka, and believe that our scouts lucked into a rare talent who escaped the radar of every other team…then I watched him play against the Suns on Monday, and can’t consider myself above the fold. Chewbaka for Defensive Player of the Year! On another note, make sure to read the OU/TX rivalry breakdown that Royce posted over at TheLostOgle.com.)
Throughout my life, I have been pretty tough on referees. When playing intramural/rec league basketball, I have been known to blame the guys in black and white stripes for everything from a blown call to world hunger. Watching games on television, without the risk of getting T’d up, I have been even less kind.
Now that you know this about me, it will come as no surprise to you that my initial reaction to news that the NBA referees union was being locked out by the league offices was less than sympathetic. “Good riddance,” I thought to myself, “how could the replacements be any worse?”
Then, dread spread down my spine as I began to realize, “they could be a lot worse.”
As infuriating as the NBA referees can be, see here, they do have a ton of training and experience that scabs called up from the D-League/CBA/NCAA, or wherever they find replacements, cannot replicate. And that shortfall is only the biggest problem assuming the league was able to get the best non-NBA referees available…but that is not the case. Guys who have the objective and talent to eventually officiate NBA games for a living probably turned down the opportunity to fill in. If they did cross the picket line, they would lose out on future benefits afforded by the referee’s union.
So we aren’t talking just about replacement referees, we are talking about bottom of the barrel referees. Oh, joy!
On the flipside, some of that experience that the seasoned zebras possess, can actually be a detriment that these green, over-their-head scabs could actually improve upon the normal product. Because of these conflicting ideas, I have a pro/con list regarding this lockout after the jump.
PRO: Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan’s heads might explode
Everyone knows that superstars in the NBA play with a different rule book. They sell the tickets, so the referees have learned to alter their calling of fouls/violations to benefit those players whose jerseys sell the best. These new guys, though, will not have learned to do this. To them, LeBron James will get just as much leeway for reaching in on the dribble as rookie Chase Buddinger.
Superstars will not like this. Particularly, the afforementioned Kobe and Duncan who get the superstar treatment and still act like they are getting hosed by the calls.
CON: Kobe and Duncan might get the calls they always wanted
There is a reason that superstars get the calls from those referees, and a lot of it has to do with how they exert that star power. Zebras get star struck and give those players advantages. These inexperienced guys could very well be more susceptible.
CON: Kevin Durant is one of those superstars
If the situation is like the first, he won’t get the foul call when doing his up and under move. If it is like the latter, he still won’t get the calls because he doesn’t antagonize the referees. Lose/Lose.
CON: Games will feature a lot more foul calls
One thing veteran officials know is that some contact that would normally be called fouls makes no difference when it comes to the world’s fastest, strongest, most talented basketball players. That lovetap on Shaq’s wrist that had no hope of dislodging the ball might be overlooked by an experienced NBA referee, but the new guys are going to call it because, by the book, it is a foul. The downside is that games will be much longer, and feature a lot more boring free throws.
PRO: The Thunder are pretty good at free throws
Making lemonade out of lemons, our team is pretty good at cashing in their free throws–particularly the guys who create contact. The worst free throw shooter of the Thunder starters was Jeff Green who shot 79%. Also, the bottom four free throw shooters from last year’s team are gone. That means extra fouls should be free points for Oklahoma City.
PRO: When the referees suck, there will be an excuse
CON: There will be an excuse for the referees sucking
CONCLUSION: Still don’t know.