Maybe it’s because love means never having to say you’re sorry, but NBA superstars and coaches alike question the league’s final-two-minute officiating reports, a practice that renewed discussion of its worth after Cleveland beat Golden State by a point on Christmas Day.
A day later, the league announced that two missed calls in the game’s final two minutes benefited the Cavaliers.
Golden State star Kevin Durant called an admission that changed nothing in essence horse hockey, saying, “The refs didn’t lose us that game, we lost that game,” and criticized the league for throwing “the refs under the bus like that.”
Cleveland’s LeBron James deems himself “not a fan” of the reports because it “discredits” officials’ good work during the game’s entirety. “You might as well give a 48-minute report,” he told reporters, “It’s not fair to the referees that you only talk about the final two minutes.”
The league first issued such reports in March 2015 and at the time called them part of an ongoing effort to provide clarification of crucial late-game calls and build “greater awareness and understanding of the rules and processes that govern our game.”
Last week, both Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and Denver coach Michael Malone said they appreciate the league’s intentions, but …
“One the one hand, you have to respect the transparency, you really do,” Malone said. “The league is really trying to be transparent to show fans how open we are, but at the same time I’m not really sure what good it’s doing.”
The Nuggets protested a Nov. 8 loss at Memphis, after which the league admitted it failed to review from its New Jersey replay center a call with 0.7 seconds left. That mistake wrongly awarded possession to the Grizzlies, who then won the game by a point on Marc Gasol’s tip-in at the buzzer.
The NBA admitted the error, but it denied the Nuggets’ protest and their request to replay that final 0.7 seconds.
“You love the transparency, but I don’t know: What good does it do?” Malone said. “ ‘We admit it should be your ball.’ OK, so we win the game then, right?”
That’s not quite how it works.
Thibodeau said he admires NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s “very good” intentions, but he also predicts the NBA “will take a hard look” at its procedures again.
“Officiating is a hard job, it really is,” Thibodeau said. “Oftentimes during the course of a game, there are a lot of split-second decisions. The next day when you go back, you rewind the film four, five times sometimes just to see it if was correct, and they’re doing it in live time. That’s not an easy job.”
It’s not an easy job, particularly in fourth quarters, especially in the game’s final minutes.
“There are a lot of plays that go into a game, and the officials are trying to get it right,” Thibodeau said. “I always say the fourth quarter is a lot different, and it is, and then you add another level when you get inside the last two, three minutes. There is a lot of stuff going on out there. It’s not easy and it’s not an easy game to referee, because basically you could call a foul on every play.”
Malone, too, expects the NBA to re-evaluate the matter.
“I’m sure it’s something they’ll continue to look at because Kevin Durant said it best: Referees have the hardest jobs,” Malone said. “They can’t keep me or Thibs happy. They can’t keep players happy. They can’t keep fans happy. They can’t keep anybody happy. It’s a thankless job for them, and now on top of that, their errors are openly aired for everybody to see. That’s not easy to handle, I’m sure.”
WOLVES' WEEK AHEAD
Sunday: 6 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN). Tuesday: 6 p.m. at Philadelphia (FSN). Friday: 6 p.m. at Washington (FSN). Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Utah (FSN).
Player to watch: John Wall, Wizards Super speedy, and gifted, point guard is coming into his prime for a Wizards team that has won three consecutive games and nine of its past 12 under new coach Scott Brooks.
Voices “He has really grown up. He’s really maturing. It’s so easy for him.” — Denver coach Michael Malone on Wolves guard Zach LaVine in his third NBA season.
NBA SHORT TAKES
• Injured Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic acknowledged Thursday in Serbia what you probably already assumed: His playing days likely are done.
President since 2015 with Belgrade’s Partizan club for which he once played, Pekovic also talked about his playing career during a club news conference. According to Eurohoops.net, he said: “I tried to do everything possible, but there are times when you simply can’t. I cannot run without pain.”
He was ruled out for this season before it ever started. Now a date to remember is Jan. 31. That’s when he last played an NBA game last season.
According to the league’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the Wolves could choose on or after the anniversary to apply for an injury-exclusion exception. If a physician jointly selected by the league and players’ association determines Pekovic’s recurring ankle pain is career-ending, they would get immediate salary-cap relief.
Pekovic still gets paid, but his $12.1 million salary on a five-year contract that expires in 2018 would be wiped from the team’s cap figures. Combined with Kevin Garnett’s expiring $8 million contract, the Wolves would gain significantly more space under a ballooning cap salary they could use to pursue free agents this summer and sign Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine to contract extensions.
Or, the Wolves could waive Pekovic this summer and spread the $11.6 million owed him in 2017-18 over the next three seasons.
• Garnett welcomed mentor Kevin McHale to his TNT “Area 21” set Thursday, and together they peered into the future of the low-post player, including Karl-Anthony Towns.
”I think the big man will come back,” McHale said. “I think you’ll get some guys who are so good down in the post, you’ll have to throw the ball down to them. … It’s evolved, but I do believe you’ll see some bigs in the next few years who’ll come in and just be dominant.”
Twitter: @JerryZgoda, E-mail: email@example.com, Blog: startribune.com/wolves