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Representatives from the players and referees unions will meet privately in Los Angeles during All-Star weekend. What should be the top item on their agenda?
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David Aldridge: Getting everyone to calm the (bleep) down about “respect.” The refs whine about not getting shown up by a player expressing legitimate anger; the players whine about refs not allowing them to vent in real time. You’re all getting paid a ridiculous amount of money. Players (especially the young ones), you don’t have to gesticulate wildly every time you disagree with a call. Refs (especially the young ones), you can take a little barking without feeling emasculated and having to show how tough you are.
Steve Aschburner: Look, there’s a cats vs. dogs aspect to the relationship between players and referees, which suggests a gap that can never be bridged. One side is emotions, the other is reason. The active participants in the competition of a game run hot, fueled by their passions and the urgency to achieve their elusive goals in a frantic 48 minutes. The game officials represent cool detachment, the rule of law and authority. They cannot, must not, approach the game solely in the moment. Both sides can improve; the refs underwent personality-ectomies about 20 years ago, when the league opted for automatons. The players need to understand this dynamic doesn’t change just because their paychecks and sway over teams got bigger. But let’s start here: Players (and coaches) need to stop complaining about every darn call. We get it -- they want every play adjudicated in their favor. But when you repeatedly tell a person who is obviously right that he or she is wrong, you lose credibility. Then when you do have a legitimate gripe, you’ve been tuned out or get back a reflexive shrug.
Tas Melas: Establishing an on-court protocol for discussion of a controversial call. In other words: when a player has a problem with a call, walk away from the play and meet the referee by the scorer’s table. (And if this song plays in the arena when it happens, I’d be happy.)
John Schuhmann: Decorum, civility, respectfulness, etc. Both sides need to hear each other out and there are probably certain referee tendencies that the players would like changed. But I think the greater onus is on the players to tone down the complaining on a night-to-night and possession-to-possession basis. There's been far too much whining and I've seen several instances this season of players complaining about calls or no-calls that were obviously correct. It's an emotional game, but they need to have more discipline and be more selective about the what they argue about.
Sekou Smith: The first item on the agenda has to be the immediate turn down of the temperature between players and officials during games. They have to come to some meeting of the minds about both sides getting their in-game emotions and actions under better control. Everything else can be worked out from there. And don't get me wrong, I don't feel like the sides have to become best friends or anything. There just needs to be a modicum of respect restored in order for everyone to move on. The game is competitive enough and certainly healthy enough these days that we don't need an extra layer of drama added by players and referees who can't get out of each other's way during games. Both sides need to come together, get over themselves, agree to change the temperature and move on with what has otherwise been another fantastic NBA season.
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