OKLAHOMA CITY — As tensions rise between NBA referees and players, Carmelo Anthony said Tuesday that the relationship is different today than it was 15 years ago when he first came into the league.
“The game has changed a lot since I came in 15 years ago, the players and the officials had that dialogue, whether it was good or whether it was bad, there was always a point where they would let you get a little steam off, and then would come to you and say that’s enough, let’s move on,” Anthony said. “And now, the trigger is too quick. You look at somebody wrong, you get a technical foul. You say one wrong thing, you get a technical foul. So I think that’s the difference from when I came in, the dialogue and communication and the relationship the players and officials [had] when I first came in and from now is a lot different.”
Technical fouls are actually down this season compared to a year ago. Through 590 games this season there have been 443 technical calls compared to 467 at this point last season, and technicals are down in two of the last three years. In 2015-16, there was 415 called through 590 games, and in 2014-15, 462.
A number of high-profile incidents have sparked the conversation, with LeBron James receiving his first career ejection, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis each ejected once, and Kevin Durant ejected three times.
Draymond Green was fined $25,000 on Sunday for comments made to The Athletic suggesting the league should replace all current referees, saying personal vendettas and history with players are part of the issue.
“Years ago, that was the communication, that was the dialogue. If an official got it wrong, they would come back to you and say, ‘I messed up, I got it wrong,”’ Anthony said. “And we’d move on from that. Now, the communication is not there.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in December the players’ association and referees’ association held a meeting to discuss escalating contention between the players and referees. Referee Courtney Kirkland was removed for a week from working games after going forehead-to-forehead with Shaun Livingston.
Michele Roberts, executive director of the players’ association, told ESPN in December that players have expressed frustration with officials holding up a “stop” gesture when players are attempting to address the official. “Our players also complained about being ignored, told to ‘shut up,’ told to ‘move’ or, in extreme circumstances, hit with a technical,” Roberts said.
“It’s not an easy job for those guys, for the officials, but it’s also not an easy job for us when we’re getting the contact and getting the fouls and you see certain calls be given and certain calls not,” Anthony said. “And you wonder why, what you’re doing, what the other person is doing right, so it’s a tough situation for those guys, and it’s going to keep getting more challenging for the officials and for us because we’ve got to figure that out.”
Asked why he believes the change in player-referee relationships has occurred, Anthony chalked it up to the game changing in general.
“I think it just changed with the game,” he said. “The rules of the game changed, the style changed, the game is faster, so I don’t think they have as much time to forge relationships anymore nowadays.”