Why replacement refs might be a good thing...

Melo_ref_mediumCount me out on the list of people who are worried about NBA referees being locked out.  In fact, I think it will be a good thing...especially for the Nuggets.

First off, I encourage readers of this blog to read ESPN's Bill Simmons excellent treatise on the sad state of NBA officiating.  Simmons rightly points out that too many refs are too short and too old to accurately call one of the fastest and most physical sports, often played above a 10-foot rim no less.  And to quote my Cousin Paul (who unfortunately is a die-hard Lakers fan), the fundamental problem with NBA officiating is that "they referee the player, not the play."  I've never heard a more true statement.

So why exactly will replacement refs be a bad thing?  Traveling will be called consistently?  Flopping will be legislated properly (as a no-call for once as it rightly should be)?  The Lakers won't receive an exorbitant number of favorable calls and no-calls?  Oh, what a shame that'd be.

From a Nuggets fan's perspective, the current officiating apparatus couldn't get any worse as the Nuggets are one of the most whistled, least respected teams by NBA refs.  To be fair, some of this is justified as the Nuggets have been notorious whiners in the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson Era.  Melo, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin, Allen Iverson, Dahntay Jones, Nene and the all-time Nuggets whiner, J.R. Smith, have never received a call that they've agreed with.  Even the dignified Chauncey Billups jaws incessantly with the zebras throughout every game, enough to draw 10 technical fouls last season.  In fact, for the 2008-09 season the Nuggets ranked fifth overall in personal fouls called (note that I said "called," not "committed") and three Nuggets ranked in the top 20 for technical fouls called with Melo finishing third overall in the NBA.  And, of course, it doesn't help that Nuggets head coach George Karl all but refuses to work the refs throughout games, rarely drawing a crucial call or no-call that goes the Nuggets way down the stretch.

The bottom line is that neither disputed calls nor disputed no-calls should be determining the outcomes of any NBA games, whether the Nuggets are participating in said games or not.  But until the NBA outlaws players from talking to the refs (something I'm in favor of, by the way), it will always be a whiners league.  Just like the refs shouldn't capitulate with a free call or a crucial no-call when a "star" like Kobe Bryant whines in their ear all night, they also shouldn't be hammering the Nuggets with horrendous calls for being malcontents on the court.  

While current NBA referees undoubtedly have a passion for what they do and have worked tirelessly to reach their sport's greatest stage, passion and work ethic don't necessarily translate into competence.  I also recognize that it's not fair to paint all NBA referees with the same tattered brush.  But it's utterly ridiculous that I can name 20 referees if asked.  I shouldn't know any of their names, because their name should never come up.  

If the "real" refs get locked out for a few months while replacement refs get a shot at calling a better game, so be it.  I'd like the NBA to take this a step further and ban all players from talking to the refs during the preseason.  Why should these replacement refs be influenced by the players they officiate any more than their locked out predecessors already are?

 "Replacement" refs?  I say, bring 'em on!  In a season in which the NBA slammed the Nuggets with a Western Conference high 22 back-to-back games, we'll take any advantage we can get.

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