LOS ANGELES -- Game 1 of the Western Conference finals had more action than a "Terminator" movie, featured 79 points from Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony and went down to the wire. That wasn't what caught Hue Hollins' eye from his seat in Section 115 of Staples Center.
"I'm watching the officials," Hollins said. "Watching the calls, what they're doing [in their] rotation. The eye contact, being in position, that's what I'm watching. I don't watch the ball. After 27 years of refereeing, it's in your blood. You just don't turn it off."
When he was working NBA games he used to tune out the insults hurled from the fans. Watching games from the stands, he hears them now.
In his own way, he's joined the chorus. Disappointed that he wasn't offered a job as an officials supervisor after he retired in 2003, Hollins has been a vocal critic of the NBA's officiating structure.
"They need people who know the game and can teach the game for referees," Hollins said. "Flagrant [fouls] sell themselves, and you have to know that with experience, and you don't get experience by osmosis. You've got to get on the floor; you have to work, you have to have a good training program in the summer. That's what they need."
Hollins offered candid opinions on several of the officiating controversies of the 2009 playoffs.
On the NBA's decision to announce the officials blew it when they didn't call Dallas guard Antoine Wright's attempt to deliberately foul Denver's Carmelo Anthony when Anthony had the ball and the Mavericks led by two with a foul to give in the closing seconds: "If it was me in that situation I would be very upset. I think they embarrassed the referee. They came very quickly and said it, and it was like, 'I'm going to cover [my] you-know-what.'"
On Orlando guard Rafer Alston's one-game suspension for slapping Boston guard Eddie House in the head during the Magic-Bulls series: "That was not a punch. It's a slap upside the head. Should he have been suspended for that? Absolutely not. You give him a foul or a technical. A suspension? No way. They should give the referees some leeway. Not everything is cut and dried. There's some gray area there that you have to deal with."
On giving Ray Allen his sixth foul on a double-foul call with 5½ minutes left in regulation in the Bulls-Celtics Game 1: "That was terrible refereeing. We know as referees who has four fouls and who has five. One thing you don't want to do is foul anyone out on a double-foul. It wasn't enough to call a foul on either one of them."