- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2016

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) - Get the calls right. Respond professionally when coaches think you got it wrong.

The demands are higher than ever on NBA referees. This season they’re being told to crack down on the kind of hits to the groin area that resulted in Draymond Green’s suspension during the NBA Finals, and also asked to keep a better eye on traveling.

Perhaps soon there could be a fourth referee to make it easier. Someday, maybe even six.

For now there’s just three in a game, so the refs spent a good portion of this week watching video of calls, some correct and others that weren’t, in hopes of getting better.

“There’s always a why and a how. Why did we miss it and how can we get it,” said Bob Delaney, the NBA’s vice president of referee operations and director of officials. “But it’s the why and the how also of what we do positive. Why do we get it right? Reinforce to yourself how you got it right so that you’re getting it right again.”

The lessons in preseason camp were about more than when to blow the whistle. Delaney stresses communication, leadership, ethics and mental conditioning, bringing in guest speakers and having the crew participate in team-building games.

The longtime referee relies on values he learned as a New Jersey State Trooper when working with the officials.

“I had an old sergeant that said to me, ‘You have to remember, just because you have authority, doesn’t mean it has to be hurtful and demeaning. You will realize you are a professional trooper when you give out a ticket or you arrest someone and they say thank you,’” Delaney said.

“Again, we don’t equate what’s taking place, but we see what’s going on in our country today and these are the same kinds of things. So we need to model what a positive, good authority figure should be.”

Referees were told by coaches they came off as arrogant when they gave warnings, Delaney said, so they’ve come up with words they can use to make for more positive interaction. Officials will try to avoid penalizing a player for cursing, as long as he’s not cursing at someone.

But they will toughen up in some areas, particularly if Green continues his habit of flailing his arms or legs after making contact with opponents in the groin area, as Golden State’s All-Star forward did a few times in the postseason.

“We told the referees the other night, you have to address it,” said Joe Borgia, the NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations.

The league tested a game with four referees in the Utah summer league, and will do so a few more times in the NBA Development League. Delaney and other referee operations managers believe a better solution might be six officials, though he stressed it’s just in the research stage and not being discussed with the referee staff.

“We’re constantly thinking of how can this be implemented, and then we put it on a back burner and get back to work with what we are doing and reinforcing it to them,” he said.

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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