New rules on complaining an adjustment for Celtics

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NEW YORK (AP) - Jermaine O'Neal believed he had the right to question a referee.

By the time he realized he was wrong, Kevin Garnett was being thrown out for doing the same thing.

The Boston Celtics met their first obstacle in the road back to the NBA finals on Wednesday, and it wasn’t old age or another team in the Eastern Conference.

It’s the referees. More specifically, the guys who instruct the refs on what to call.

Officials will be issuing more technical fouls this season for player complaints, and the Celtics will have to adjust quickly or risk giving away free points to their opponents.

“It’s going to be a long year,” O'Neal said. “A lot of techs, lot of stoppage of play.”

The Celtics were whistled for three technical fouls in their 104-101 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday. O'Neal was hit with one for questioning a call, and he was still looking for answers when Garnett picked up a pair and earned an automatic ejection.

“I was still dazed by mine. I heard two whistles, I was like `OK, well, Kevin’s gone,’” O'Neal said. “So you talk about three techs in a matter of minutes, probably less than three minutes, which is crazy.”

Actually, there were four in 16 seconds.

It’s part of the NBA’s desire to cut down on complaining. The league has warned teams that lingering too long, or reacting too demonstratively, will result in a penalty.

That will be tough for a team such as the Celtics, a team loaded with veteran players who by now feel they know how to interact with referees. Only now the league is no longer leaving it up to the referees to choose how they will interact.

O'Neal said when he questioned a call that went against him during the second quarter, he was told to walk away, then was T’d up when he asked if he was no longer allowed to talk to the ref.

“The refs are good enough in this league to determine who’s gone too far and who’s not,” O'Neal said. “I’m interested to see what refs, if you made a poll, would they agree with the new rules or the old rules.”

Doesn’t matter, said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. The rules are in place and it’s up to his team to deal with them.

“It’s all of us. We’ve got to keep trying to make this a better product, and so people smarter than me have decided this is what we need to do, then we need to do it,” Rivers said. “And we need to adhere to it. I don’t think that’s that hard.”

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