Referee assignments now posted morning of game, but does that matter to teams? Print
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Thursday, 08 November 2007 18:29
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 For years, Allen Iverson couldn't help himself. He had to check the pregame lineup sheet to see which referees were calling his game that night.
And what was his reaction when he saw certain names?
``Oh my God, it's going to be one of those nights,'' the Denver Nuggets star said this week.
If Iverson so desired, he could now find out a whole lot sooner.
In one of the changes sparked by the Tim Donaghy scandal, the NBA this season began posting the names of the officials for that night's games at 9 a.m. (EST) on NBA.com. That information previously wasn't available to the teams or public until 90 minutes before games, but Donaghy admitted to passing it on to gambling associates to help them win their bets.
Donaghy provided them insight into certain player-referee relationships that could affect a game, an admission that Iverson - while stressing he thought no other refs were involved - found particularly troubling.
``There's a lot of truth to that,'' Iverson said. ``Because I know just being in the league 12 years, you know when somebody is not a big fan of yours. You know what type of relationship you have with certain people, if somebody don't like you or you don't like somebody, you know what it is.''
But while the change may make a difference in Las Vegas, it doesn't seem to have much affect on NBA teams.
``I think if you have a really veteran group it might,'' Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said before a game in New York. ``As a player, the longer you were in the league, the more you knew the officials and kind of knew how they called games.
``But as a coach to your players, it's not going to deviate from how you're going to play that game against the opponent you're going to play it against. You're going to have your game plan based on the New York Knicks, not who's calling the game. So for us it doesn't shed anything.''
Still, coaches are always looking for an advantage, and getting the information earlier gives them a head start on researching some tendencies of the guys they'll see later that night. Especially, if in another Donaghy-sparked change, the league begins sharing its referee database with teams.
``I think some coaches will probably build up statistics on certain referees, from 3-second calls to fouls and free throws. Those numbers are out there somewhere,'' Denver's George Karl said. ``I personally don't want to overstatisticize the game, for me it's a feel game. Some nights you get calls, some nights you don't get calls. Some nights the game's a touch game, next night a physical game, and I don't think you can predict that.''
There are some officiating assignments that would get a team's attention, whenever it finds out, such as when Joey Crawford does a San Antonio game after his clash with Tim Duncan last season. Or for Iverson when he sees Steve Javie, after saying last January there was ``something personal with me and him since I got in the league'' after Javie ejected him from a game.
``Most of the referees, 95 percent of them I know on a first-name basis, so it's just a relationship,'' Iverson said. ``It's just like players, too. You play against guys for so long you know what they like to do on the basketball court. You have a scouting report with players, you have a scouting report with referees.''
Nevertheless, don't expect Iverson to rush to his computer at 7 a.m. in Denver.
``At 7, I'm just rolling over. I'm not up doing that,'' he said. ``I can deal with it once I get to the game. But honestly I don't even do it like I used to. I get out there and I let it just hit me all at once.''
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HANG IN THERE, LEBRON: Jason Kidd knows what it's like to lose a trusted teammate, so he has an idea what LeBron James must be feeling in Cleveland.
So Kidd and Carmelo Anthony want their USA Basketball teammate to hang in there while the Cavaliers play without forward Anderson Varejao, perhaps their most important frontcourt reserve.
``He can only go out there and play with the guys he has, and the first thing he can not show is frustration because the rest of those guys will see that and they'll follow his lead,'' Kidd said recently. ``This is a good time for him to grow as a leader and go out there and play hard and make sure everybody is pulling their weight.''
A restricted free agent, Varejao is holding out while seeking a deal worth $9 million per season. Though the Brazilian forward provided last season's Eastern Conference champions with energetic rebounding and defense off the bench, the Cavs don't feel that's a realistic demand for someone who isn't an offensive threat.
So Cleveland moves on without him, much the way New Jersey did in the summer of 2004 after dealing star forward Kenyon Martin to Denver for three draft picks. The Nets had reached the NBA finals in 2002 and '03, so Kidd wasn't happy at the time.
``I've been there, done that. It can leave a bad taste in your mouth, but at the end of the day you've got to tie your shoes a little bit tighter and go out there and play a little bit harder,'' Kidd said. ``And not force things, because he has so much talent, he just has to be him and just be himself and let management take care of any of the stuff that's going on with the other players.''
Anthony said he hasn't talked to his friend about the situation, but knows James must be frustrated.
``I already know what he's going through right now, so if he can just ... hope that something happens over there, hope they make a trade or get Varejao back,'' Anthony said. ``I hate to see him lose a guy like Varejao. I would love to play with somebody like Varejao.''
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HELPING HANDS: With Del Harris becoming a consultant and Sam Vincent going to coach the Charlotte Bobcats, Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson was forced to hire two new assistants this summer.
To replace the experienced Harris, he went with Paul Westphal, who coached Phoenix and Seattle for all or part of seven seasons. To replace Vincent, he went with an old teammate, Mario Elie.
Johnson said Westphal has already been getting through to the team's co-captains, Dirk Nowitzki and point guard Devin Harris. He's also been ``a very calming influence'' on Johnson.
``He's had some nice suggestions and they are not all fancy,'' Johnson said. ``Sometimes they're just so simple.''
Elie played with Johnson in San Antonio, where they won a title in 1999. Elie also won a title in Houston, so now he's hoping to get a ring from Texas' third team.
A funny thing about Elie is that Johnson mentioned him several times during the 2006 NBA finals. He even noted how many times his old teammate's name kept coming up. Now, they're working together again, with one of his main duties being to help get the most out of Josh Howard.
The third member of Johnson's sideline staff is his top aide, Joe Prunty.
``One of the things that I feel really tells a lot about your staff is how other teams go after them in the offseason,'' Johnson said. ``You look at what happened with Sam Vincent, that makes me proud. Joe's an up-and-coming young coach and he gets attention. It just makes me feel good when people take a look at our assistants and know they are capable.''
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GO TO WHO? Having trouble figuring out Minnesota's lineup in the post-Kevin Garnett era? You're not alone.
``George Karl said the other day he didn't even know who the hell we were starting,'' Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said.
After trading one of the league's best players to Boston over the summer, the Wolves figure to be pretty anonymous - and not very good. But could their low profile provide an edge?
``God, I hope so,'' Wittman said. ``Because if there is, than we got a hell of an advantage.''
Wittman started Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and Sebastian Telfair, all acquired in the Garnett trade, along with Rashad McCants in the Wolves' first two games. None is a superstar, and it showed when Minnesota was close with both Denver and New York into the fourth quarter before falling short.
Without a go-to guy, the Wolves aren't sure where they want the ball going down the stretch.
``I'm not going lie to you and say we know that,'' Wittman said. ``We got options at that and I think for right now until we put guys in that position to see how they respond, the really good go-to guys can have 3 1/2 awful quarters and at the end of the game, a two-point game, they're going to play through that guy.
``We've got to see if we have people capable of doing that. I can't answer that right now, but we do have (people) capable of making plays at the end of the game. ``So that's just a thing that you as a player kind of develop as you get on the floor and you become a permanent fixture in this league.''
In the meantime, Minnesota may often be good, but not quite good enough.
``This team, I think as they continue to move on, Randy does a good job, they run good stuff, they're very sound,'' Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. ``They're going to give a lot of teams some problems.''
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AP Sports Writer Jaime Aron in Dallas contributed to this report.
 

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