It has been becoming clearer as this season unfolds that there’s a defintely a fine line between taunting technical fouls and non-technical calls, as it has set off a number of controversial decisions from NBA officials that have disappointed basketball fans and experts.
Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Edwards, who were just the latest examples of taunting calls gone wrong. Both stars were handed a technical foul this past week after very slight stare downs coming from impressive dunks.
While many have protested against the league’s oversensitivity, NBA head coach of referee development and training Monty McCutchen finally shed some light on the matter. “Finding the right balance of what is and what isn’t a good technical foul and taunting is something that will continue to calibrate with the competition committee,” he said.
Anthony Edwards dunking over the Warriors and staring them down didn’t deserve a tech. Passion fuels the game. NBA referees need to execute better—no need for unnecessary techs. Fans crave excitement, not interruptions. 🏀 #CoachAvery #AnthonyEdwards #Timberwolves #technicalfouls pic.twitter.com/CMdoPa8Ugh
— Avery Johnson (@CoachAvery6) November 14, 2023
“When you start talking about taunting, there’s a fine balance and I think you’re fair to hold us accountable to what you believe that is. What we do know historically, is that taunting gone unchecked leads to altercations. It leads to an increase in physicality. It leads to more, to put it kindly, passionate play,” McCutchen explained.
The first situation came during Milwaukee‘s 120-118 win over Detroit on November 9, when “The Greek Freak” was handed a second technical foul and had to leave the court. The superstar threw down a fast break dunk on Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and gave him a second-long glare.
The Bucks forward was so incredulous after the call that he sat courtside to protest, but he was still ejected. As for the “Ant Man”, he got his first tech after dunking over Golden State’s Dario Saric on November 13. Fortunately for him, he continued to play and dropped 33 points in the Wolves‘ 116-110 victory.
“In some instances, it is just a stare, but in other instances league-wide, it is a stare along with certain verbiage that takes it to a different level,” McCutchen reacted to Edwards’ call.
Basketball analysts have all shown their disagreement over the referee’s latest decisions to call for small displays of emotion
As a result of these technical fouls, an avalanche of criticism has blown up from league experts and broadcasters. Former Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers was more than outspoken on social media stating he’s had enough of NBA officials calling fouls on certain plays.
“Can we stop giving guys techs for stare downs…it’s stupid and takes away from the game,” he posted this weekend. “Happened again tonight with Ant. Yall want guys to compete and play with an edge. It’s all passion nothing personal. Stop that BS.”
McCutchen recognized that the league wishes to apply the same consistent treatment to all players when it comes to holding this standard. However, he understands that passion is part of fierce competitiveness.
“We are often accused of not handling the status of a player in a similar way. And yet when we do, it is often an outcry of is that enough,” he told the press. “We do not wish to be so onerous and application of rules that we don’t allow for passionate play. And yet at the same time, I think we can all recognize there is a line that we don’t wish to be crossed on a regular basis.”