The NBA might have given its players something to complain about this season -- something other than the new basketball.
In an attempt to get players to curtail post-whistle whining, NBA referee representatives have made the rounds early in training camp to emphasize the league's zero-tolerance policy.
Commissioner David Stern, long fed up with players' histrionics over questionable calls, is threatening to hit them with quick technical fouls -- and later fines -- for those who curse, throw their hands up, or make other gestures that show disgust.
"The thought process is we have the best athletes in the world, playing a spectacular game as well as it has ever been played," Stern said. "In my view it detracts from it, when a small handful of players spend their time negotiating and slowing the game down, at least in the perception of the fans, by engaging in an enterprise which is not productive."
Stern said a crackdown was long overdue.
"All it does is show a less attractive side to the greatest athletes in the world," Stern said Wednesday. "The coaches don't mind this because, as a result, it means the player will get back on defense rather than staying down to argue a call he didn't get on the offensive end."
Rasheed Wallace, for one, told the Detroit News he took the league's crackdown personally.
"It's just another 'Sheed Wallace rule," Wallace, shaking his head, told the newspaper. "It just means I must be doing something right. Any time they change the rules of the game for one specific player, you must be doing something right."
The league's fine system, which was introduced last season, includes a $1,000 fine for each of the first five, $1,500 for the next five, $2,000 for the next five, $2,500 for the ones that follow, and, in addition, a one-game suspension for every other technical after the 15th.
"What happens if I am one of the captains?" Wallace asked the News. "Does that mean I can't talk to them? You can't talk back to them like they're your mom and dad. It's like they're saying, 'If you say something to me I am going to put you on punishment.' That's how it is. I will come up with some way to tell them how I feel."
Wallace was issued 16 technical fouls last season and a one-game suspension. It's reasonable to think, if referees consistently show zero tolerance, he could double that total.
"It'll be an adjustment for everybody in the league," the Heat's Dwyane Wade told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Heat coach Pat Riley believes players will still be able to express their opinions to officials, but will have to police their body language and tone of voice.
"They are going to be very conscious of player complaining," Riley said last week. "That's one of the big things with them. Every call, there's always 10 guys complaining to the officials. They're just telling them to cut it out."