With 4 minutes and 52 seconds left in Houston's 121-112 win against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, Paul was whistled for a technical foul by referee Scott Foster. Paul's comments after the game were clear and, as well, pointed to perhaps a looming discussion between the National Basketball Players Association and NBA referees.
Here's what Paul had to say about Foster, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon:
"Yeah, Scott Foster at his finest," Paul said. "You know what I mean? He just never fails.
"Some of them, you can [communicate] with. You've just gotta figure out who you can and you can't. I got a tech tonight. I'm over there with [referee Courtney Kirkland] saying, 'That's Scott, that's Scott,' and I got a tech. That's history there. He the man. That's who they pay to see."
Paul ranks eighth in the league with six technical fouls. Paul said he isn't concerned about putting himself in jeopardy of a suspension, but he considers the quick whistles an issue that needs to be addressed.
"Man, you've just got to hope there's a system in place, just making sure they get checked just as much as we do," Paul said. "Even some of those double techs that they call, it's really quickly and stuff like that. That's $2,500 every time a tech's called on a player."
Paul said he expects to participate in a meeting during All-Star Weekend about the tension between referees and players.
"We're going to figure it out," Paul said. "There's got to be a way that we have dialogue and stuff like that. I don't know, good ol' Scott Foster, though. That guy ..."
On Wednesday, USA Today's Sam Amick reported that the NBPA and NBA officials will meet on Feb. 17 -- during NBA All-Star 2018 -- to hash out issues between players and referees that have cropped up this season. Per Amick, there will be three players on one side, three officials on the other and perhaps a moderator in said meeting. NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts said the meeting is "shaping up" and will not be open to the public.
"I think if the aim is to have candid discussion between the players in attendance and the officials in attendance, I think it needs to be done without a third party, including, frankly, even perhaps me or others being there.
“I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be both spirited and enlightening. Even the conversations I’ve had with Lee, there have been things that I have not, frankly, been aware of in terms of the kinds of pressures that (officials) are under. So, I think it’s a useful step.”
While player-ref conflict has always been an unavoidable part of professional sports, most agree that this NBA season has been worse than most in terms of the rapport – or lack thereof – between both sides. The incidents have certainly involved stars, among them the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (first ejection of his career on Nov. 28), the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis (first ejection of his career on Nov. 29) and – last but certainly not least – the Golden State Warriors’ duo of Draymond Green and Kevin Durant (the two league leaders in technical fouls, with 19 combined).
But no situation was more symbolic than the Dec. 3 head-butting between official Courtney Kirkland and the Warriors’ Shaun Livingston, with Kirkland being removed from the referees’ rotation for a week as a result and Livingston suspended one game. On Monday, after Green told The Athletic recently that officials were “ruining the game” and that the NBA should “get a new crop,” the Warriors forward was fined $25,000 by the league.
“I think if nothing else, and (the improvement) may be modest, but having had the conversation (with the officials) and having our players go back and report to the rest of the guys and those officials going back and having their conversations, (this meeting) will make some difference,” Roberts said. “At least people will have a better sense of what is on the minds of the other group.”