Crawford suspended indefinitely; Duncan fined $25K

NEW YORK -- Joey Crawford is done ejecting players and coaches this season. On Tuesday, he was the one getting tossed.

The veteran NBA referee was suspended indefinitely by commissioner David Stern for his conduct toward Tim Duncan, who contends the official challenged him to a fight during a game in Dallas.

Crawford has worked more postseason games than any active ref. His suspension will last at least through the NBA Finals, and he apparently will have to meet with Stern after that to discuss reinstatement.

"Especially in light of similar prior acts by this official, a significant suspension is warranted," Stern said in a statement. "Although Joey is consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands his responsibilities."

But Crawford made it clear to NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson on Tuesday that he would eject Duncan again if the circumstances were the same.

Crawford likewise informed superiors, including Stern, and fellow referees via e-mail Tuesday that "if my employer does not think that was acceptable, I have a problem" working in the future. Crawford has maintained from the start that Duncan deserved two technicals for what he deemed to be disrespecting the game by "laughing [at] and mocking the officials."

However, in his e-mail to Bloomberg News, Crawford appeared to imply that he didn't expect to officiate an NBA game again in his career.

"Please do not be sad for me," Crawford wrote to Bloomberg News. "I have had a great run and a great career and nobody will ever take that from me."

Crawford ejected Duncan from San Antonio's loss after calling a second technical foul on the Spurs star while he was laughing on the bench.

"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?"' Duncan said. "If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?"'

Crawford was cited for "improper conduct" and "inappropriate comments made to Duncan during the game." Stern said Crawford's actions "failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees."

The NBA also fined Duncan $25,000 for verbal abuse of an official. Crawford said Duncan referred to him with an expletive.

Crawford was the first referee suspended since Rodney Mott was banned three games Jan. 12 for making an obscene gesture toward a fan and also using inappropriate language in Portland.

Crawford comes from an officiating family. His brother, Jerry, is a major league umpire, as was his father, Shag.

Joey Crawford is in his 31st season as an NBA referee. He has officiated more than 2,000 games during the regular season and 266 in the playoffs, including 38 in the NBA Finals.

But his temper has gotten him noticed before, especially in Game 2 of the 2003 Western Conference finals, a matchup involving the same teams as in Sunday's game. Crawford called four technical fouls in the first 10 minutes, 11 seconds, leading to ejections of then-Mavs coach Don Nelson and assistant Del Harris.

Two of the technicals in that game came in rapid succession during a timeout when Nelson tried to engage Crawford in a staredown and did not heed his order to return to his bench. Assistant coach Del Harris was tossed by Crawford late in the second quarter after he walked onto the court to protest a non-call against Duncan for playing illegal defense.

"Don [Nelson] walked up to half court. I never told him to sit down because that's not my job to tell him to sit down," Crawford told a pool reporter at the time. "I told him to go coach his team, and he said, 'No, I'm not going to.' So I hit him with one. I said, 'Go coach your team.' He said, 'I'm staying right here.' So, bang, I threw him.

"Del Harris was different," Crawford said then. "Del Harris came to my partner [Ted Bernhardt] at a timeout and said that he was going to get ejected, and to eject him on one [technical], which isn't unusual."

Stern was so angry with Crawford for overshadowing the playoff game that, according to a league source, Crawford was told that if he repeated such actions, the consequences would be serious.

Nelson and Harris, now with Golden State, and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban all declined to say anything about Crawford's suspension before the Warriors played Dallas on Tuesday night.

"All I can do is get in more trouble," Nelson said.

Crawford also called a technical in a recent game against Duncan, who said Sunday that Crawford has a "personal vendetta against me."

Duncan was called for his first technical foul Sunday with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter for arguing about an offensive foul. Crawford hit him with the second technical 1:16 later after Duncan was on the bench laughing about a call that went against the Spurs.

With Duncan gone, the Mavericks rallied to beat the Spurs, ending San Antonio's chance of earning the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN NBA Insider Chris Sheridan was used in this report.