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NBA commissioner Adam Silver admits fines doled out to players for criticizing refs are more gestures than deterrents

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LONDON — NBA commissioner Adam Silver admits that fines doled out to players for criticizing referees are more symbolic than actual deterrents.

“We recognize that the fines — while nobody likes to lose the money — in many ways are more symbolic than anything else when you have players as wealthy as they are,” Silver said.

Last weekend, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green suggested that the league get “a whole new crop” of referees. He was fined $25,000 by the league office.

Green is set to earn $16.4 million this season. The average NBA salary sits at $6.5 million.

But Silver, in London as part of the NBA’s global game featuring the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, said he doesn’t want to go down the road of assessing what fines are impactful enough to stop players from criticizing refs.

“I wouldn’t want people to be making that calculus that it’s worth this much to say something about the referee and to bring additional gamesmanship into it,” he said. “I think ultimately it’s more important that through relationships we convince players that it’s not the best way to proceed.”

Silver pointed to a proposed meeting between some NBA veterans and a few referees during All-Star week. He mentioned Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, the head of the players association, as a person involved in organizing the discussion.

Paul himself was fined $5,000 after receiving a technical from Scott Foster with 4:52 remaining in Houston’s 121-112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

“He the man. That’s who they pay to see,” Paul said sarcastically.

Silver says the referees also have gripes, and he is listening to both sides with the hope that they can work things out amicably.

“I’m listening to the players’ complaints, and I’m also listening to the referees’ complaints,” he said. “And I’d say although it seems to be getting a fair amount of attention, we’ve looked back at the data from over the years and there haven’t been a greater number of ejections or a greater number of technicals.

“There is nothing aberrational happening in terms of the calls on the floor, but it’s something that people are talking about. I recognize that.”

The difference, according to Silver, is the added focus on the refs in the age of technology.

“Nothing has changed other than there is so much more scrutiny than there used to be,” he said. “Every bit of audio is captured now. Every single moment that happens on the floor is captured on high-definition video. And it’s amplified in ways we didn’t see historically. There really aren’t any private moments.

Having said that, Silver did say that referees are getting additional training, led by former ref Monty McCutchen, in part to deal with player tension on the floor.

“We have doubled down on our training of officials,” Silver said. “I think it’s something fixable and we can improve it.

“It’s not about amping up the fines. It’s about improving relationships — and working with people who are just trying to do their jobs.”



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