Paul Pierce’s Ejection More Evidence That NBA Needs To Hold Referees More Accountable For Mistakes

Paul Pierce's Ejection More Evidence That NBA Needs To Hold Referees More Accountable For Mistakes NBA fans everywhere rejoiced when long-time referee Joey Crawford was suspended indefinitely in April of 2007.

He was cited for "improper conduct" toward Tim Duncan, who said Crawford challenged him to a fight after the San Antonio Spurs center laughed at him from the bench. League Commissioner David Stern was apparently fed up with the hot-headed Crawford, who had a penchant for being too quick to dole out technicals.

Crawford's back. Has been for four seasons now, and is still leaving his mark on games with terrible officiating, followed by technicals for those who call him out on it.

But this piece isn't about just Crawford (and believe me, I could write a book about how awful he is). It's about a moment in time — those five wonderful months in 2007 during Crawford's suspension when fans felt the league would finally start holding referees accountable. No more technicals for giving the refs a bad look. No more ejections because a player hurt an official's pride.

They were finally going to be forced back to the basics. Officiate the game as best you can, then get out of the way.

But alas, Crawford was reinstated, and Stern passed new rules this offseason empowering referees even further. Now, they're perhaps more vindictive than ever before.

Which brings us to Sunday afternoon's controversial ejection of Paul Pierce from the Boston's Game 1 loss to Miami.

Should Ed Malloy, the official who tossed Pierce, be suspended? No. This wasn't a case of referee vindictiveness, as far as I can tell. But Malloy missed two straight calls — an obvious flagrant foul committed by James Jones on Pierce, and another flagrant committed on Pierce just minutes later by Dwyane Wade (you can see both in the same video link above).

Jones clearly made a grab at the captain's head and neck, and Wade lowered his shoulder and tried to run Pierce over at full speed. Both were right in front of Malloy, and neither was called correctly.

Is Pierce an idiot for responding with the now-infamous "face-rub" on Jones and a few choice words for Wade? Yes.

But if it's Game 1 of a semifinals series that has been hyped for almost a year, and my opponent tries to obliterate my chest, I'm gonna have words for him. No one can convince me that's worthy of an ejection.

After the game, head official Danny Crawford (I'll never understand how this guy has become a head official. He's almost as bad the other Crawford) told the Associated Press that Pierce's second technical was for a "verbal taunt. He directed profanity towards Wade".

If the refs called a technical for every time a player verbally taunted another, there'd be nobody left to play. These guys' mouths don't stop flapping the entire game. And yet, you eject a team's star player at a crucial point — 7 minutes left in the fourth. Boston would eventually narrow the Miami lead to just eight with 4 minutes remaining but couldn't get any closer.

Today, Stern should be releasing a statement, stating that the referees (he doesn't even have to specifically call out Malloy) made a mistake. Jones and Wade should have been assessed flagrant-1 fouls, and Pierce should not have been tossed.

If nothing else, under the rationale provided by Danny Crawford, Stern should at least note that both Pierce and Wade were deserving of ejections. Wade committed a flagrant, followed by, in Crawford's words, "actually walking toward Pierce, and that's why Wade received his."

But Stern won't do that. He'll stand by the refs and fine the heck out of anybody who challenges their ability.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for decorum on the court. And Stern was right to try to improve the character of the game by upping the ante this past offseason on technical fouls. No one wants to see a return to the days of the Palace incident.

But some referees have taken that to mean that they're somehow part of the game. That their footprint, their "style" of refereeing should be visible at each game they officiate. It's escalated to the point that should be immune from criticism, on and off the court.

None of those three things should be true. Especially in the playoffs, there must be an understanding that players are going to get heated. They're super-competitive, testosterone-laden men with their postseason lives on the line. If they get out of hand, by all means, blow the whistle. Give Pierce a flagrant for his dead-ball contact with Jones. That's only fair.

But beyond that, the refs must stay above the fray and out of the spotlight. Ed Malloy didn't do that Sunday, and the league should be working to ensure it doesn't happen again.

What should the NBA do about Ed Malloy's decisions? Leave your thoughts below.

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