February 13, 2012
Refs don't cut Raptors any slack
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - To label it the NBA’s Dirty Little Secret may be a bit of a stretch because, clearly, it’s no secret.
Anybody who plays, coaches or watches NBA basketball knows that reputation calls are a part of the game.
But for young teams like the Toronto Raptors — teams devoid of superstar players — reputation calls, and non-calls, are frustrating and demoralizing. And what adds to that frustration is the fact that nothing ever seems to be done about the problem. Further to that, teams who feel like they’ve been consistently burned as a result of reputation calls, can’t complain, at least not on the record, for fear of the wrath of NBA commissioner David Stern.
The way star players and marquee-laden teams are favoured by the referees is a long-standing joke. The Raptors have recorded 690 personal fouls this season (following Sunday’s games) — by far the most in the NBA. Toronto ranks 30th (the most) in personal fouls per game (23.79), followed by Golden State.
Are those stats strictly the result of the tough, physical brand of play which Raptors head coach Dwane Casey preaches to his team? Or is it also reflective of the fact there are no superstars on the roster and the Raps generally don’t get the benefit of the doubt from the refs?
When asked on Monday if he’s noticed any difference in the way games are officiated from when he was a coach with the NBA-champion Dallas Mavericks to this year, Casey replied that NBA referees are the best in the world and do a great job. When pressed on the matter — in the wake of two weekend games that saw the Raptors get burned by a number of reputation calls and non-calls, Casey said: “Are you trying to get me in trouble? No comment.”
Casey was certainly making a few choice comments on Sunday afternoon. With his team down by one with 4.2 seconds remaining to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rasual Butler — off the bench to inbound the ball — called for a time-out but was instead slapped with a five-second count violation by referee Scott Foster. Butler said he asked Foster to count out the five seconds aloud and turned to call the time-out when he heard “four.” Around the same time Butler called for the time-out, Casey did the same from in front of the Toronto bench. But Foster slapped Toronto with the violation, and the Raptors lost possession of the ball and the game, 94-92.
The Raptors were livid. After the game, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted: “Anyone see the end of the raptors game...? I know I will be looking for a tweet from @nbaofficial.” The NBA later ruled that Butler waited 5.8 seconds to request the time-out. Still, Casey felt that one of the refs should have heard him calling for a time-out. And there was a lot of grumbling in Raptors Nation later, the suggestion being that if it had been Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce or LeBron James requesting the time-out, they would have received it.
In an 86-74 win against a star-laden Boston Celtics side on Friday night, Raptors point guard Jose Calderon screamed for a time-out at 2:12 of the second quarter as he lay on the court clutching the ball, with Celtics forward Chris Wilcox leaning over him. Calderon’s call, however, went unacknowledged and the refs ruled a jump ball, which the 6-foot-10 Wilcox easily won over the 6-3 Calderon, giving the ball to Boston. When the refs ruled a jump-ball, Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong, who is normally fair to the officials and the opposition, could hardly contain himself, yelling into the microphone: “Just make the call!” meaning the time-out. Armstrong, a former NCAA head coach, cut the referees some slack later, pointing out that they’re human and that reputation calls are certainly not unique to the NBA.
“It’s like when Greg Maddux pitched,” said Armstrong. “He’s a (future) hall of famer. So you don’t think the umpires are calling strikes on his pitches just below the knees? That’s the way it works in sports. You don’t think Vince Carter got a lot of calls when he played for the Raptors? It’s just the way it is.
“The referees certainly don’t go into games thinking that they’re going to screw the Raptors tonight,” he said. “I know when I was coaching good teams, I got the benefit of the doubt on a lot of calls.”
That’s little consolation for the Raptors, who face the New York Knicks on Tuesday night at the ACC. Casey said no matter who the big, bad Raptors play, what stars they face, they approach every game the same.
“We play our style of basketball,” he said. “We’re physical, we’re touching people, putting our hands on people, playing the way we want to play and have to play. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s San Antonio, the Knicks, the Lakers, Boston ... We want to play the same way.”
Of course, the Raptors won’t have to worry about reputation calls as much when they become a star-laden team. When, and if, that happens, the shoe will be on the other foot.