- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When he interacts with officials, Wizards coach Scott Brooks has noticed only one small change from his playing career to his days on the bench.

“When I started, I think we only had two referees to yell at,” Brooks deadpanned. “Now, we have three.”

Brooks‘ joke hits on the underlying tension between players, coaches and referees. There’s always going to be outbursts, technicals and tantrums. Brooks is no stranger to that — he was T’d up for his sixth technical of the year Saturday against the Indiana Pacers.

But all three parties — the NBA, the players’ union and the National Basketball Referees Association — increasingly agree: it’s time to play nice.

The Wizards met with head of referee development Monty McCutchen and NBA executive Michelle Johnson for 30 minutes to discuss conduct with the referees and rule interpretations. The meeting was part of a league-wide initiative to at least try and smooth over concerns. McCutchen and Johnson visit every team, as well meet with the referees.

“It’s just about respecting one another’s job,” Brooks said. “We all have a great responsibility to our profession to treat each other with respect, and understand that we all have a tough job to be able to manage the emotions that go into the pressure of each game and each play.”

This season, there have been a number of high-profile incidents between players and referees. Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made headlines for suggesting the NBA scrap their referees and replace them with new ones. Warriors forward Kevin Durant has been ejected multiple times. Even LeBron James, for the first time in his career, has been tossed.

Players and referees met over the All-Star break in Los Angeles to search for common ground.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told USA Today in January that while the pace for technicals isn’t up this season, the relationships between the parties need work.

Wizards forward Mike Scott agreed, saying they needed to “hash things out.”

“I don’t know if we just need to lock the door and tell everybody to fight,” Scott said, jokingly. “But no, of course we can’t do that. They’re human, they’re not perfect. But there has to be some type of point where everybody is on the same page. I don’t think right now everybody is on the same page, but I think hopefully these meetings will help.”

Scott said, “You can just see the tension.” He added players don’t want referees to carry over grudges from one night to the next, which he felt was happening. He acknowledged players are sometimes guilty of that, too.

There’s no perfect solution. Even being more patient, Scott said, was hard in the heat of a game.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris, who leads Washington with 10 technicals, said took away “nothing” from the meeting, saying it went “in one ear, out the other.”

“Honestly the game is not about the players and the refs,” Morris said. “We’re playing for the fans and we’re trying to clean up. It’s at an all-time high right now.”

Morris, after all, was frustrated. Hours after the meeting, he was called for a technical during Tuesday’s overtime win against the Miami Heat. He now has the sixth-most technicals in the NBA.

May be a while yet before players and referees are singing “Kumbaya.”

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