NBA referee Ken Mauer conducted a short seminar for the media on Tuesday night before the Thunder-Bobcats exhibition. Mauer told us about points of emphasis and areas of continuing emphasis. It was educational and enlightening.
I’ve long said NBA officiating is first rate. There might be a game or two a year when I think the officiating gets shoddy, but not more than that. It’s an incredibly difficult sport to call, yet the officials have reasoning and explanations for everything they do. These guys are well-trained. They’re not just out there calling whatever they happen to see.
Mauer showed us a 20-minute video going over the points of emphasis, and he sat by me to watch the video and offered all kinds of comments. The block/charge dilemma seemed to perplex him the most. Example: if the defender is set, easy call. If the defender hasn’t established position, easy call. But if a defender sets his feet, then gently moves into a driver who is trying to go around the defender, it’s a tough call.
Also, angle is everything. We saw a play in which a 3-point shooter on the wing actually falls to the side, trying to draw contact from a defender who played straight defense and did not foul. The camera angle was right behind the shooter, so we had a good view of the ploy by the offensive player. But Mauer pointed out that there was no official right behind the shooter. There was a ref down on the baseline and a ref above the top of the circle. Both with side views. Hard to see the lean by the shooter.
Perhaps you know, replay will be used more extensively this season. In the last two minutes of games, replay will be used for goaltending calls and restricted-area fouls. The refs are instructed to call goaltending in the last two minutes, then go to replay and check it out. If you don’t goaltending, you can’t go back and review, since play continues. And replay can be used on the restricted zone only to determine if a defender was outside the arc.
Also, refs no longer will call flagrant 1 or the more egregious flagrant 2 fouls. Refs will just call a flagrant foul, then go to the monitor and decide whether it’s a flagrant 1 foul (unnecessary) or a flagrant 2 (unnecessary and excessive force) or a technical foul or even just a common foul.
Mauer is a dominant personality. You can tell that by the way he officiates. He clearly develops relationships with the players. Most of the time that is a good thing. Before the game, Thunder assistant coach Rex Kalamian brought rookie Perry Jones III over to the officiating crew and introduced them. When Kalamian and Jones returned to the bench area, I asked Mauer, “Is that standard in the league?” Responded Mauer, “No, that’s just class.”