NEW YORK - The most demonstrative gesture of the night came from Kane Fitzgerald, and it was such a demonstrative gesture that Fitzgerald became a central character in Wednesday night's Celtics-Knicks exhibition game.
Who, you ask, is this Kane Fitzgerald?
He is an 29-year-old NBA referee beginning his second full season who pulled out his best Shag Crawford imitation and gave a quick pair of technical fouls (from 30 feet away) and a full-armed heave-ho to Kevin Garnett in the second quarter of Boston's 104-101 victory -- the latest instance of a referee following the letter of the law and showing zero tolerance as part of the NBA's leaguewide crackdown against griping about or showing physical displeasure with calls.
Garnett has always been one of the league's more vocal and demonstrative complainers, and what set him off this time was a technical foul handed to teammate Jermaine O'Neal after O'Neal mildly questioned a foul call levied against him by Zach Zarba.
Zarba quickly hit O'Neal with a tech, and Garnett drew his pair of technicals seconds later for letting the refereeing crew know how ridiculous he thought O'Neal's tech was. So with Jermaine O'Neal in foul trouble, Shaquille O'Neal (hip arthritis) and Glen Davis (sore left knee) sitting out and Garnett ejected, Amare Stoudemire found himself being guarded by the likes of Marquis Daniels and Luke Harangody as he scored 16 of his 30 points in the third quarter before sitting out the entire fourth.
"It may take a while to get adjusted, any time something that severe is changed. You're used to playing a certain way, you're used to certain reactions. It may take a while for guys to get used to it, but we'll adjust. Again, it's for the betterment of the NBA, it's the betterment of teams and players, so we have to adjust," Stoudemire said before being asked if he believes the tighter technical foul rules make for a better product. "Absolutely. It makes it a clean game, a fun game. You let the officials do their jobs, and we do ours."
Stoudemire would probably get an argument on that point from Garnett, but KG had left Madison Square Garden by the time the locker rooms were opened to reporters, and thus was unavailable for comment. KF (Kane Fitzgerald) was not available for comment, as referees are only allowed under league guidelines to give public explanations for rules interpretations, not judgment calls.
Here was Doc Rivers' take: "It is what it is. You've just got to live with it. What can you do? Listen, I do think as a league it's about all of us. It's not just the officials and the players and the coaches. We've got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so people smarter than me have decided this is what we need to do, so we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don't think it's that hard.
"I think it'll come to it eventually not being a knee-jerk thing. I think officials will have a better feel on it," Rivers said. "We're going to figure it out, it's just gonna take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don't get it yet. They're trying to figure it out, and it'll get figured out by game one."
But it wasn't just the Celtics who were hit with quick technical foul whistles. It happened, too, to Knicks rookie Timofey Mozgov, who was given a tech for mumbling something in Russian as he walked past referee Kevin Fehr after being called for his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
"I don't want to say something to ref, just somthing to myself in Russian language," Mozgov said. "I say: 'I have trouble with fouls again.' Maybe one bad word, but it was not for ref."
It was "funny," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He'll learn to keep his mouth shut. I'm sure he won't want to be giving away that many rubles."
Funny for now, maybe.
But when guys like Kane Fitzgerald (a native of Jersey City with four years experience refereeing in the D-League, two in the WNBA) have a bigger impact on the outcome of a game than someone such as Kevin Garnett, you have to wonder whether the NBA is creating a bigger problem through its solution than the problem it is supposedly trying to correct.
As an NBA fan myself, I'm not a person who goes to games to see referees blow their whistles incessantly and give out T's like they're lollipops on Halloween.
Anybody with me?
Or is this rule a good thing?
Your comments are welcome.