Jon Nichols continues his look at NBA stars' quarter-by-quarter offensive performance with this post on Dwight Howard. An excerpt:
In the first quarter, Howard ends up at the free throw line on only 23% of his possessions, but by the fourth quarter that number has nearly doubled. In fact, it is how he does most of his damage late in the game.
Zorgon of the blog Blue Blitz, which covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Bloguin network, is happy about the impending referee lockout. His reasoning?
Fresh blood is exactly what NBA refereeing needs. The new referees won't have established "relationships" with players, so LeBron James will be treated the same as Kyle Weaver. Imagine how much more challenging it will be for superstars to go off on huge scoring nights when all of the calls don't go their way. Imagine how much harder it will be for teams like the Lakers to roll over teams like the Kings, because the refs will actually be taking the game seriously. Imagine a world where good defense in the post might be rewarded, rather than discouraged. None of this is guaranteed, but the prospect excites me. The true cream would rise to the top.
I can't say that I share Zorgon's optimism. In fact, "the true cream would rise to the top" counters his argument in favor of using replacement officials, since the current NBA referees have already risen to the top. It's unrealistic to expect minor-league referees, who had not yet done enough to distinguish themselves for an NBA promotion, to call games competently and fairly.
Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse agrees, citing these incidents with replacement referees in 1995 as evidence:
Chris Webber missed a month with an injured shoulder that he hurt during a fight with Luc Longley; the league suspended 16 players for their role in a fight that occurred during a Kings/Pacers game; David Robinson was ejected during a game in which 22 fouls were called in one quarter alone.
Players were fined a combined $202,500 in November of 1995. By comparison, player fines totaled only $147,000 for the entire 1994-95 season.
Former Magic center Shaquille O'Neal hopes the officials and the NBA reach a resolution soon, as he learned firsthand during the 1995 referee lockout that replacement officials aren't up to par.
During a particularly physical exhibition game that season, O'Neal had his right thumb fractured when he was karate chopped by Matt Geiger before he went up for a dunk. It was the start of O'Neal's final season with the Magic. Geiger was playing for the Miami Heat.
O'Neal had surgery two days later, and he missed the first 22 games of that regular season.
UPDATE (from Eddy): To further support Ben's concerns about replacement refs, written by Liz Mullen in SportsBusiness Journal (via The Baseline):
[National Basketball Referees Association executive director Lamell] McMorris said that players are concerned about the potential for increased injuries and increased fines if replacement officials are used. "The players know what replacement officials look like and they don't want to go there," he said.
Finally, Chris Tomasson reports that the Denver Nuggets have made former Magic guard Keith Bogans their second choice, after Ronald "Flip" Murray, to replace suspended sixth-man J.R. Smith.