Blogtable Archive

Blogtable: Is there anything behind LeBron James' complaints about referees?

Each week, we ask our scribes to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.

From Staff

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LeBron James says NBA referees protect jump shooters more than drivers. Is James just planting a seed for the postseason, or is there something to this?

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David Aldridge: There’s some truth to what he said. But he’s an imperfect messenger. The downsizing of the game, I think, makes it harder for refs to gauge whether contact on the driver is truly disruptive/dislodging or just incidental. It’s a lot easier to tell when a 7-footer swings down on a guard than when a 6-foot-8 guy goes full Hibbert on a 6-foot-6 guy. There’s just so many more 3-pointers taken in a game now than drives, and guys like James Harden tried to take advantage of that in the last couple of years with the rip-through move, among others.

Steve Aschburner: Everybody’s always planting seeds when it comes to criticizing referees. Sometimes they merely have to do the work verbally, sometimes they have to fork over big bucks when sowing the so-and-so’s. I haven’t seen the numbers league-wide — perhaps John Schuhmann has crunched them for us — but relatively speaking, jump shooters probably are getting more protection than they used to. Remember, this is a sport that gave us the cliché about “refs rewarding aggressiveness” and jump-shooting teams long have been seen as passive by comparison. I happen to think LeBron James suffers from the Shaq syndrome of being so big and strong that fouls against most players look like gnats on him. But I’d also bet a significant sum that his FT attempts per game go up between now and whenever he’s done playing this season.

Tas Melas: LeBron is right, there has been more of an emphasis by referees to let shooters land and not be affected while shooting, but that’s just the cycle of officiating. The focus for the Referees’ Association is always on something, it just so happens to currently be on the perimeter. I think LeBron is using the power of his voice, just like he did leading up to and during All-Star weekend. He is one of the toughest players to officiate in a game that is very difficult to officiate — sometimes the men and women with whistles just need to be reminded of that.

Shaun Powell: I’ll give the referees more respect than that, to accuse them of selective enforcement, especially since there’s no scientific data to support LeBron’s claim. Perception can be different from reality. I don’t think there’s anything to it and also don’t suspect LeBron is planting a seed for the post-season. As an aside, why is LeBron’s opinion on anything always weighed as gospel by the media and/or public? No offense to him intended, but his voice doesn’t necessarily represent the majority of the NBA.

John Schuhmann: Talk like that is always an attempt to plant a seed, but James’ perspective is understandable, and given how big and strong he is, defenders probably get away with more contact against him than they do against other drivers. He’s been fouled on 9.3 percent of his drives, the fifth highest rate among players who have averaged at least 10 drives per game, and maybe he should be higher on that list. Still, drives are much more difficult to officiate, because of the speed, the number of bodies involved in the action, and the potential for the offensive player to create an advantage with the contact that he makes. It’s easier to determine if contact on the perimeter affects a jump shooter than if contact in the paint affects a driver. It’s not necessarily the intent to protect one more than the other.

Sekou Smith: This is definitely LeBron planting seeds. And haven’t the referees been bashed enough already? I know they have issues they are trying to work through. But assigning calculated motives to them after each and every game goes above and beyond what’s necessary right now. Protecting jump shooters at the expense of what? Come on, LeBron, you are better than that. I know he is just expressing himself, as is his prerogative. I just don’t agree with his take on this one. You got smacked in the face on a drive against the Spurs and they missed the call. We get it. But enough already with the conspiracy theories. It’s easily the most tired narrative in the league this season. And no one wins as long as we are discussing it.