Yes this is Peter Vecsey, but it is still interesting.
'Curtain' calls for aging NBA refs
By PETER VECSEY
Last Updated: 8:11 AM, October 5, 2010
Posted: 2:33 AM, October 5, 2010
Between the mounting rate of tattoos and rising cost of technical fouls, it's almost impossible for NBA players to save money these days.
No wonder Rasheed Wallace felt he would be better off quitting while he was behind.
In case you missed it, the league has intensified its fine system that coincides with a planned crackdown on the ever increasing torrent of complaints and demonstrations to calls.
For the time being, as far as I know, there is no legislation in the works forbidding emotion or passion . . . as long as it doesn't show up the referees. Respectful meetings of the minds during breaks remain acceptable, as long as they're brief. However, assistants no longer will be permitted to interject their presence / opinion.
For the first five technical fouls, players (and coaches) now will forfeit $2,000. That's double the amount of last season's infraction. Keep acting up or out and the fine escalates to $3,000 the next five times and increases to $4,000 for the ensuing five breaches.
Starting at 16, players are suspended one game for every two technicals, along with $5,000 per.
For my information, I learned the NBA owns the discretion to punish disorderly on-court conduct with "reasonable" (therein lies the rub) fines and suspensions (12 games or more goes to arbitration). The Players' Association gave the league that discretion.
Any appeal is heard by the commissioner, which tends to reduce the chances of a reversed decision.
Now that the league's fine / scale system, it says here, has become unreasonable, I suspect the union will insist on getting equal input in the process during the two parties' projected Lockout Lambada.
This brings us to today's original column idea, that of the revolving-door refs, tentatively titled "Whistle While You (Don't) Work."
If you thought the league's 30 teams acutely renovated their rosters, look what's happening in the zebra cage. For the second consecutive season, four of the most experienced whistle-blowers retired, some on their own volition, while others were pressed to do so or be fired.
Prior to last season, Ron Olesiak, Jack Nies, Jim Clark and Luis Grillo packed it in. A couple weeks ago, the NBA announced the exodus of Joe DeRosa (on the job 22 years), Sean Corbin (17), Joe Forte (21) and Phil Robinson (12).
According to sources, four-to-seven additional elders are targeted for the tar pits next summer, especially in light of the officials' union having no contract past 2010-11.
You know the league office has to be counting down Dick Bavetta's days. About to commence his 36th season (2,434 in a row without a missed assignment), the 71-year-old (Dec. 10) is 10 years older than his closest colleagues -- Bennett Salvatore, Joe Crawford and Bob Delaney.
Bavetta also is the league's highest paid official, $450,000. Think the NBA might want him wiped off its books?
Think economics have anything to do with so many veterans retiring the last two years? Or do you subscribe to the league party line that the older guys' performance perceptively slipped? Hey, maybe they weren't really that good over time. Whose fault is that?
In any event, you'd think, as the league tightens up policing of players and coaches, it would want to roll 60 deep with as many practiced people as possible, refs who know all the tricks and are unlikely to be fooled too often.
Then again, it's tough to compete against the bottom line. New refs are cheaper, 100G or so vs. 200-to-300G for the eight most recently departed, a savings of roughly $2.2 million.
More important, the outgoing refs were set in their way. Their replacements are infinitely more malleable and responsive to the impersonal, unforgiving, computerized, regimented command of ex-Army general Ron Johnson, the VP of Referee Operations, who doesn't know Rick from Brent Barry.
Clearly, DeRosa, 52 and Corbin, 47, are too young to retire. They can't start collecting their pensions until 59Ĺ. But they left anyway because they couldn't take working another day in such an insensitive, uncaring, scrutinized, unhealthy environment.
Both had been suspended one game and fined in successive seasons. DeRosa's forced sit-down occurred during last season's playoffs (he threw ball to a heckler on the sideline), but was determined skilled enough by superiors to warrant a Finals assignment.
Both felt they were on a path to nowhere. Both have secured full schedules refereeing NCAA games with no unbending work rules, log-ons or reports to file once back at the hotel. Corbin was offered over 100 games at $2,500 a pop. DeRosa has a mail order business to supplement his collegiate income. On Sept. 24, at the refs' training site in Jersey City, the NBA held a dinner at the Westin for its officials. A selected media gathering (ESPN, TNT, NY Times, Sports Illustrated . . . ) as well as league and team executives viewed a short video tribute of the four "retirees" in action. Forte and Robinson attended. DeRosa and Corbin refused to attend.
At the clip's conclusions, Johnson, his mike open, asked Robinson to come up and say a few words. Or less.
"You've got a New York minute," everyone heard him notify Robinson.
Then it was quickly Forte's turn.
"I guess I have a New York minute, too," he said.
"Barely," Johnson decreed.