Fred VanVleet was right and NBA officials need to change their outlook

Imman Adan and Asad Alvi discuss Fred VanVleet's comments after the Raptors' loss to the Clippers and why the player-official relationship has been slowly getting worse for years. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.

Video Transcript

IMMAN ADAN: VanVleet had some really, really harsh and choice words for Ben Taylor after the game. And it was interesting because like I said, this has kind of been a bad week for the Raptors in terms of refereeing. We all know what happened with the Scott Foster game.

And after that game, Keerthika had a great tweet. Keerthika has been fantastic. Everyone give her a follow. But she had a great tweet, where she said that, Fred, after the Nuggets lost, that he's about to save his money and not actually make any comments on refereeing.

And then last night, of course, he said he'll take the fine. As of right now, we don't know what the fine is. But I'm assuming it's going to be really, really big. I've been talking enough, Asad. Let me throw it to you. What are your thoughts on the comments that Fred VanVleet made last night?

ASAD ALVI: Yeah, well, again, the stat that Keerthika had was that Ben Taylor has, what, I think given him-- has reffed games where he's given five of the eight techs that VanVleet's taken.

IMMAN ADAN: Four of six.

ASAD ALVI: Yeah. So four of the six games where Fred's gotten techs, I think, and then one of them was a double tech ejection. And I think Ben Taylor has directly called, I think, three of them, which is like-- that's a significant percentage of your techs. So some friction in that relationship.

I think, again, I think it speaks kind of more to the bigger issue between the refs and the league. And this is something that, if we remember coming out of the bubble-- coming out after the bubble season, there was a sitdown with Monty McCutchen, who's the head of the referees, and some of the more senior players. Carmelo Anthony spoke about this a year or two back, where there was an influx of new refs. A lot of experienced refs had retired.

And suddenly those relationships weren't there, and there were a lot of techs being given out a year or two ago. And suddenly we're seeing-- this season, again, we're seeing a lot of techs flying left and right. And when you have the NBA now in a situation where you have so much league parity, it's such a competitive game, to be given techs, like Jordan Poole getting attacked for throwing the ball right back at the ref-- or even earlier, a couple of weeks ago, Gary Trent Jr. picked up the ball, threw it to the ref, and they called a delay of game or a tech on him.

IMMAN ADAN: It was delay, yeah.

ASAD ALVI: And it's just like, well, what are you supposed to do in that situation? Where if every single thing can be seen as a slight to the ref and they're going to call techs, that becomes very difficult to manage because the players have to also still remain in the competitive focus of the game. In this case, Fred VanVleet got a tech in this game for saying basically that they're trying to fight through the bull.

And he was saying that to his teammates, which is a normal thing to say in the game, and it could be really about anything. But for the refs to overhear that, decide, oh, that's directly a slight towards me, I'm going to call a tech-- that seems a little excessive, and to the point where even today, Marcus Smart was asked about his foul issues the last few games by Boston media. And he said, you guys heard what Fred VanVleet said. I'll leave it at that.

IMMAN ADAN: I did not know that. Wow.

ASAD ALVI: And again, these are things that I feel like it's been kind of bubbling up. And a lot of players feel this way. You saw Jayson Tatum get ejected from a game for basically nothing, get massive techs as well. So it's something that's kind of been bubbling and bubbling.

And it was an issue two years ago, and then it kind of calmed down. And now it's starting to become an issue again, which is coming to a head. And it's just about the league kind of finding a balance between their referees and their players, where they can have a-- where they can produce a product that doesn't feel too overplayed.

And again, when it comes to playoff time, usually we never see these issues. But for some reason, during the regular season, there will just be this stretch of a month or two where the players and the refs are just not getting along. And it feels like the last month or two has been very tough in this specific regard, where you just have--

IMMAN ADAN: Chris Paul is like, what? You don't see these issues in the playoffs? Look at my career.

ASAD ALVI: Chris Paul is deserved. We can leave it at that. But yeah, so I feel like that's kind of the extended conversation to have there. And for Fred VanVleet, that was-- I don't think we've heard anybody say anything that bad. I think the biggest fine we've seen-- I forgot who was bringing up fines earlier. But it was like, Paul George got a big $35,000 fine a year or two ago.

IMMAN ADAN: So did Masai. Masai got one earlier this year, if I'm not mistaken.

ASAD ALVI: Regarding refs, I think the players' cap is they can-- at most they can be fined is $50k. So I expect to see a big one for Fred coming. But it was cool to see Fred talk in the manner he talks because he's very cool, calm, collected. I think JE Skeets on the "No Dunks" podcast called it icy. So--

IMMAN ADAN: It was icy. It was icy.

ASAD ALVI: It was very icy.

IMMAN ADAN: I will say, in 2021, I think a large part of why those conversations were happening is because the referees also have a CBA. They also have a union. And that's when their CBA negotiations were happening. That was back in 2021.

So I think that there was sort of more focus on things at that time, and this isn't new. I do agree with you that there was an influx of new referees, and so these conversations had to be had. Ben Taylor's not new. Steve-- [INAUDIBLE] said Steve Javie. Might as well have.

Scott Foster is not new. These are not new guys, and these are issues that always persist. And I think it's important that players voice their frustrations because this stuff matters. And you're right. Fred VanVleet trying to get his teammates riled up to basically be like, we think that this whistle is unfair, but we got to play through it. That's what he's telling his guys.

And I think that there is a power dynamic that exists between refs and players. And that, to me, is an abuse of power to get mad at a leader of a team-- basically, the team captain-- getting his guys to be like, we think that this is unfair, but we got to play through what we think is unfair.

ASAD ALVI: And a final comment on that-- yes, Fred was very scathing towards the refs, in particular, in that. But he did say--

IMMAN ADAN: He was complimentary. Yes.

ASAD ALVI: --hey, some refs do their job well. They have no problem. It's very specific issues. He made it very specific--

IMMAN ADAN: He's said a lot. Yes. He was very--

ASAD ALVI: And then also made sure to say-- he said, hey, we didn't lose because of the refs. We lost because we were overmatched. We were overplayed. That wasn't why we lost, but it is incredibly frustrating.

He also did pinpoint that he realizes that in the first half, the team was getting very sidetracked by the calls that were being made, which is something that, again, the team needs to be better at. The Raptors are a young team. They do get frazzled by the whistle a fair bit. As great as Scottie Barnes is, there are a lot of times you can see where he kind of is spending a lot more time arguing with the ref than he is getting back into play early in the game versus maybe in the fourth quarter when he just takes his anger out on the court, which--

IMMAN ADAN: But to me, that's the biggest issue with it here because when you are the leader of a young team, who you know gets caught up with fouls, does not run back on defense because they're complaining about a non called the other way-- the only way to get those guys to stop complaining at these refs, which no ref wants to be jawed at all game. We saw what happened when Scott Foster was jawed at all game.

He ended up ejecting someone in the final seconds of a basketball game. So if refs don't want to be jawed at all game, then you have to let the leaders of the team to be like, you think that this is unfair? Well, we got to play through it. And if you're stopping the people who are trying to control their teammates but you're also stopping the people who-- you also are ejecting the people who are angry, to me, the Fred VanVleet technical and the Scottie Barnes ejection are opposite things.

You can't get mad at both of those things. One of those, you have to sort of be like, yeah, that's the proper way to handle it. If you're mad at players-- I think personally, neither one of them should have gotten a tech in that situation. That's how I feel personally about it. But the NBA needs to come up with this sort of standard thing.

And also, I think everyone talks about it. You shouldn't have separate rules for the superstars of the league versus a sophomore player. That's not how any of this should operate. That's not how any of this should work.

And yeah, it's unfortunate, but it's a conversation that needs to be had. So I'm glad that Fred VanVleet has decided to put his money where his mouth is and lead and take charge in terms of having that conversation. But my goodness, Ben Taylor better not officiate the Raptors play-in game. Not here for it.