- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - The NBA’s referees union criticized the league on Friday for fining an official who was involved in a dispute with Boston coach Doc Rivers.

Rivers was fined $25,000 Thursday for his postgame rant two nights earlier in Chicago against Bill Kennedy, who was also docked an undisclosed amount. Rivers complained afterward that Kennedy had stared at him, goading the Celtics coach into receiving a second technical foul and an automatic ejection.

The referees, however, claim that is what they’re trained to do, instead of yelling back at the coaches, and plan to appeal.

“Some things you cannot take out of the arsenal of the officials. It’s not a stare to start some kind of disagreement or goad him into getting ejected, it’s just like, ‘Hey, enough is enough,’” referees union spokesman Lamell McMorris told The Associated Press. “And basically he didn’t even stare him down. He walked away, he turned his back per what he is trained to do and he removed himself from the situation.

“As far as we’re concerned, Billy Kennedy followed every rule according to the referee’s manual as it relates to handling situations like this. The only person in this scenario who has had a pattern of behavior that is unprofessional is Doc Rivers, not Billy Kennedy.”

The referees noted that Rivers had previously been fined this season for his public complaints about the officiating, getting penalized $15,000 in February for “verbal abuse of game officials” following a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rivers was thrown out with 29.8 seconds left in the Celtics’ 127-121 loss in Chicago on Tuesday, calling his second technical foul “the most unprofessional tech I’ve ever had.”

“(Kennedy) stood there and goaded me and goaded me and goaded me and stared at me,” Rivers said after the game. “Look at the film. I actually walked away. He asked me, ‘Where do you want the ball?’ And I said, ‘Ask them,’ talking about our players. That’s my right to say that, and I walked away. He stood there and stared me down and stared me down and goaded me until I turned around and said, ‘What?’ That’s when I got thrown out of the game.”

Before Friday’s game at San Antonio, Rivers said he wasn’t happy with the fine he received. But he said he knows the rules and thought it was handled right.

“I’m not going too deep into this whole thing,” Rivers said. “But to me it looks like when the whistle blowers don’t like when the whistle blows. Bottom line.”

McMorris said one league official told Kennedy there would be no action against him, but believed it must have changed its mind based on the media coverage of Rivers’ outburst. He wouldn’t say how much Kennedy lost, but, “in comparison to what Bill Kennedy gets paid and what Doc Rivers gets paid, it was not equitable.”

McMorris added the fine was a “dangerous situation” as the officials prepare for the postseason.

“The thing that’s most troubling is the fact that this person was fined for doing his job and for following the rules and the training and for trying to do his job to minimize the situation and the conflict, and for walking away,” McMorris said. “So that’s very troubling to all the officials and they’re very alarmed by this matter, because one matter like this affects the ability of all of them to do their jobs.”

Rivers said he was in support with the fines being public.

“I do like the fact, and I will say this, coaches have been publicly fined for years,” Rivers said. “And now I think it’s good when everybody is publicly fined. …If you’re going to make it public for one you should make it public for all. And I don’t have a problem with that at all.”


Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.

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