Wake-up call: Wizards can't be honest about foul call

Wake-up call: Wizards can't be honest about foul call
February 13, 2014, 6:00 am
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Wouldn't it be nice to hear a healthy discussion about NBA officiating after Wednesday's loss at the Houston Rockets? The Wizards led by two, had a foul called on Trevor Ariza on an inbound pass that disqualified him from the game, a free throw for James Harden and the ball as he hit the game-wining shot.

It was a puzzling sequence at best, with Harden being rewarded for contact that he initiated against Ariza, the Wizards' best 1-on-1 defender. 

"The ball wasn't thrown in, they said, which is one shot and the ball," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said after the 113-112 loss at Toyota Center. "After they saw it (on replay), they saw it was a hook and a hold by him first. But it is what it is."

It erased Ariza's effort. He scored a team-high 32 points by making 10 of 14 three-pointers. John Wall bounced back from a season-low five points in loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday to post 19 points, 14 assists and three steals. Nene had 21 points and six rebounds.

The Wizards (25-27), however, had three players foul out in Ariza, Nene and Marcin Gortat. The Rockets held a 35-8 edge in made free throws. They attempted 31 more, with Harden going 16-for-16.

But like Wittman, Ariza had to be careful when answering questions after the game about the game-ending call. While the league requires players to be available to media after the game, it also will fine them for publicly criticizing the officiating.

RELATED; [Did Harden embellish on foul called against Ariza?]

It's a nonsensical rule developed under then-commisioner David Stern, who retired to begin the month, after 30 years. In some alternative universe, he believed this compromised the integrity of the game more than actual bad officiating. He accused coaches of trying to work officials through the media, which was true, and called it "corrosive." But why are they so easily influenced by criticism? There has to be happy medium here.

Who is to say the Wizards wouldn't have lost anyway. If they'd stopped Harden on the final drive, they still would've won by a point. But listen to Ariza's measured answer about the play. 

"We were battling to get the ball. I was trying to stop him from getting the ball. We both made contact," he said. "It just so happen they called a foul."

Was it a foul?

"That's not for me to decide," Ariza said.

In other words, of course it wasn't. Newly minted commish Adam Silver should consider tweaking this policy and allow some leeway -- reason, anybody? -- after an emotional game. It's unfair to nickel and dime players with fines for what's talked about in locker rooms, in offices and behind closed doors every day. And increasing the anti-flopping penalties, something even Stern was in favor of on the way out, would help, too. 

There's no point in asking players or coaches about how they feel or saw a situation when they can't give a genuine answer. Just admit that it was a bad call, or let them say it was, that Harden shouldn't have been rewarded on the inbound play and move on.

That won't change the result, but at least it's transparency and adding to the integrity to the game.