N.B.A. Cracks Down on Responses to Foul Calls

“He was like, ‘Sorry, but that’s the new rule,’ ” Pierce said Javie told him.

The new rule that Javie referred to is an attempt by the to cut down on the whining and muttering, the arm-waving and air-punching, the drawn-out contentiousness that is often generated by foul calls players disagree with. If players cannot keep a lid on the complaining, they will receive a technical.

On Wednesday night, in a preseason game between the and the at Madison Square Garden, that new policy was on full display. Officials called four technicals in a span of 16 seconds, with Boston’s igniting the second-quarter whistlefest. as he seemed to come to O’Neal’s defense, drawing an ejection before O’Neal even realized what occurred.

“I was still dazed by mine,” O’Neal said.

Six seconds later, the Knicks’ Timofey Mozgov was introduced to the N.B.A. with his first technical foul. He later said he had only spoken to the officials in his native Russian.

Frequent technical fouls are not new for the Celtics, one of the league’s more marketable — and volatile — teams. They accumulate technicals like points, registering a last season. “It is an emotional game,” Celtics Coach said recently. “That’s tough to understand when you’re not out there.”

Rivers said he did not think that the N.B.A. needed a new policy to cut down on complaining about calls, that officials “are good enough to know the difference” between normal bellyaching and behavior that is over the top.

But other coaches and players are less critical. Asked in recent weeks what they thought of the new measure, they noted that other rules had been put in place before the beginning of a season and that players had always adjusted.

“I thought it was great,” Coach said of the new policy. “I don’t think there should be players that can run up on referees, that can throw punches in the air. There shouldn’t be players blatantly trying to let everybody know that they got hit by slapping their hands and things like that.”

, the executive director of the Players Association, called the change “an unnecessary and unwarranted overreaction on the league’s behalf” and said the union had seen no increase in the level of complaining. He said the union would file a legal challenge.

The union and others said they worried that the policy would remove some of the game’s natural vibrancy.

“It’s impossible to not show emotion playing basketball,” the ’ Chauncey Billups told The Denver Post. “Shoot, it’s impossible to do playing golf. And that’s no physical contact at all.”

The league’s veteran players know the officials on a first-name basis. In the search for a bit of leeway, they often talk to officials more often than younger players do. But now they will have to be more careful about their tone and accompanying gestures.

“At the end of the day, it’s letting us as players know we’ve got to have better relationships with referees and we’ve always got to come correct,” Boston’s Ray Allen said in support of the new policy.

The N.B.A. has also raised the fines for technicals to $2,000 each for a player or coach for the first five offenses. They will be docked $3,000 for each of the next five technicals and $4,000 for technicals 11-15. If a player exceeds 15 technicals, he is suspended for one game for every two technicals and draws a $5,000 fine for each additional technical.

As it is, some of the biggest complainers are top players. So what will the reaction be if or is tossed from a pivotal game for punching the air? “That would be my concern,” O’Neal said.

On Wednesday, when nothing was really at stake, Garnett laughed his way off the court after being ejected for his second technical. Rivers and Knicks Coach each ended up grinning.

O’Neal, a 14-year veteran, said he received his technical after asking the official, Zach Zarba, if he could talk to him after a call. Under the new rules, players may talk to referees if they do not use demonstrative gestures.

But O’Neal said he had barely talked to Zarba before he was whistled. Afterward, O’Neal said he empathized with Zarba, who he knew was following orders.

““I’ve never been given a tech where I just asked, ‘Can I talk to you?’ ” O’Neal said. “And I’m talking about seconds. As soon as it came out of my mouth it was a tech.”

The league said it adopted the stronger policy because fans had complained about the frequent bickering. O’Neal predicted that the league would back off after witnessing the impact of the new policy during the regular season.

“It’s going to make it look like it’s about the officials,” O’Neal said. “If I’m a fan looking at it, O.K., the referees are too big for the players to talk to, to communicate.”

The N.B.A. has sent officials to talk to teams about the new policy. They have the support of the Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, who said the tougher rules made for a “clean game, a fun game.” But others aren’t so sure.

Opening night, meanwhile, is 11 days away.

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