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Fouls, tensions rise with replacement NBA referees


Posted Oct 14 2009 1:41AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Larry Brown preaches to any and everyone to play the game the right way.

So the sometimes-cranky Charlotte Bobcats coach is having a hard time adjusting to the inexperienced replacement officials calling a foul on seemingly every other possession.

Brown says it makes it hard to play. Period.

"It's like the summer league games," Brown said Tuesday, referring to where most of the new officials have worked. "I've always had issue with that. You never get to see the kids play. There's always fouls being called."

Statistics prove his point. According to STATS LLC, there have been average of 57.5 personal fouls per game through Monday's exhibition schedule. That compares to 49 fouls per game in the preseason with the regular referees last year. There were 42 fouls a game in the regular season in 2008-09.

The average is even higher in the Bobcats' four exhibition games. There were 77 fouls and 95 free throws in the New Orleans-Charlotte game last week. The crew Monday night called 61 fouls and five technicals in Charlotte's game at Atlanta.

Brown was ejected, one of the early uncomfortable moments for the league since it locked out the regular referees in a labor dispute.

Kevin Scott, who has worked in the NBA Development League, whistled Brown for two technical fouls, then called for security when Brown lingered on the court.

Brown, who picked up a technical foul in another game Scott worked last week, eventually left for the locker room without an escort.

"I don't want to get into that," Brown said when asked a day later of the ejection, before adding that "I'm sure I did" deserve to get tossed.

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said they had no problem with Scott calling security as the league prepares to perhaps play regular-season games with replacement officials for the first time since 1995. There have been no talks since the referees union rejected the NBA's latest offer two weeks ago.

"Without getting myself in trouble, I think the older refs knew how to not take the rules literally all the time. It created a flow," Bobcats guard Raja Bell said. "Some of that stuff they're going to let go for the benefit of a good flow to the game. I think the younger guys, it's not unlike an NBA player, you have to learn the rhythm of the game."

As Bell spoke after practice, one veteran NBA referee, Joe Forte was across town at the Big South's basketball media day. Forte, who also serves as that college league's coordinator of officials, said the union has forbid referees from speaking publicly on the issue.

"And I think that's the right thing to do," Forte said, before smiling and asking a reporter to "tell Larry I miss him."

Despite the famous incidents, there is some sense of camaraderie among the old referees, players and coaches after years together. It's something clearly missing with the new crew from the minor leagues, WNBA and college ranks.

"You know what you're going to get out of guys," Bell said of the veteran officials. "You know who's got a short fuse, who's got a quick whistle, the guys who are going to let you play and tell you to get up when you might take a dive. This is a little different. All these guys are new to us."

There have been flubs in other games, ranging from the wrong player shooting free throws to the incorrect number of foul shots being awarded. There have been a handful of scuffles, too. But the biggest complaint appears to be all the whistles.

"There wasn't an up and back and up in the whole game that I can remember," Brown said of Monday's game. "That was hard."

Brown has experienced replacement officials twice before in his well-traveled Hall of Fame career. Most NBA players haven't, though, and it may take some getting used to.

"At this level, at this speed, at this size," Bell said, "you have to let some things go."

NOTES: F Boris Diaw (ankle) went through his first full practice of the preseason and could play in weekend games in Los Angeles. ... F Tyson Chandler also practiced, but hasn't been cleared to play yet as he tries to strengthen muscles around his ankle following offseason surgery. ... G Flip Murray (shin) sat out the workout. ... Bell, shooting 3-for-21 from the field in the preseason, spent extra time shooting with assistant coach Herb Brown. "I tend to start off slow," Bell said. "I'll shoot my way out of it."

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