The NBA’s stupid technical foul rule and its other stupid technical foul rule have combined to claim their first victim of the season. Dwight Howard– who, incidentally, is about as amicable and light-hearted as NBA players come– will miss Orlando’s game against the Blazers on Monday becaue he picked up his 16th tech of the year Friday night. He will receive a one game suspension for every second technical he receives from now through the end of the regular season.
In the event you’re not quite familiar with what happened here, let’s recap briefly. Back in the day– OK, a bit over five years ago– players used to pick up technical fouls at a pretty frequent rate. There was no suspension for the violations, just a fine and the in-game consequences of free throws and an ejection after the second in a game. Combined with some of the other image problems the league was facing at the time, the powers that be thought it would be a good idea to find a way to keep its players from being too demonstrative or challenging the referees. So a rule was created that would keep players from reacting unfavorably to whistles and non-calls. This rule has been affectionately dubbed as the Rasheed Wallace rule. A good rule in theory, since players are no longer receiving north of 30 techs in one season.
This year, the NBA decided the Sheed rule wasn’t enough. Players now receive technical fouls for disrespecting the game. What does this mean? It’s quite arbitrary and left up to the discretion of each individual referee. Reacting to bad calls, frowning, clapping your hands, breathing offensively, showing any emotion or disagreeing with the refs in any way might get you T’ed up. But not to worry, the NBA will review technicals and rescind a few of them if they decide they were incorrectly handed out. Howard himself has had four techs wiped off his record. Otherwise, he would have been suspended three times by now instead of once.
This bugs me because the NBA refuses to figure out a way to handle this more logically. I’m not suggesting that players be able to berate the referees just because they don’t like their decisions, but let’s be honest. Refs make bad calls. The NBA agrees, otherwise they wouldn’t be reviewing them. But instead of fixing it by finding ways to make the games better officiated, they pass the buck to the players. They set an arbitrary number for the suspension limit and try to cover it up by stifling players’ reactions.
In Howard’s case, he gets beat up on and baited into quite a few of these calls. He should know the rules and try to avoid these situations that are hurting his team, but maybe someone should take those things into account when deciding how many technicals are too many. Instead, he’ll miss an important game heading down the home stretch and maybe more if he can’t keep his cool. By the way, the Magic have very little depth at that position and can’t afford for Howard to miss time. A game here and there with Malik Allen and Daniel Orton seeing court time could affect playoff seeding in a tight Eastern Conference race.
And as I said before, that’s stupid.