NBA expands rules on technicals

NBA referees will have more reasons to issue technical fouls next season.

At the referees' annual meeting in Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday, the league announced the guidelines for technical fouls will expand to include "overt" player reactions to referee calls.

Referees have been instructed to call a technical for:

• Players making aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court.

• Demonstrative disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands, or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled.

• Running directly at an official to complain about a call.

• Excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone.

In addition, referees have been instructed to consider calling technicals on players who use body language to question or demonstrate displeasure. They can also consider technicals for players who "take the long path to the official", walking across the court to make their case.

"The proper mindset, in every player's mind, is abstinence. That is: to not complain," NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson said. "The focus here is to just play the game. We have a great game. We have great players. We have a great product. Let's focus on executing offense and defense and being highly competitive. Complaining doesn't have a part in our game, and complaining has never changed a non-call to a call, or a call to a non-call."

For the 2006-07 season, the NBA announced a similar crackdown, but the effect was short-lived. Officials say this time they expect the new policies to stick.

Ron Johnson, the NBA's senior vice president of referee operations, said audience research was a major factor behind the most recent change.

"Our players are more personally connected to fans than any other sports," Johnson said. "We don't have masks. ... There's nothing you can hide on the expression of an NBA players. ... People expect hockey players to be fighting. They expect baseball managers to be kicking dirt on umpires. But that's not our game. That's not what our fans want. They tell us in many many ways and I think we have to adjust to meet the needs of our league and our fans. It's a business."

Some reactions will not be penalized, Johnson said. "Heat of the moment" reactions, like a defensive player briefly raising his hands to show he had proper position, will be acceptable.

Johnson also said players showing frustration with themselves will not be penalized, and players will still be able to discuss the game with the referees.

"We want referees and players to talk to understand each other," Johnson said. "If it's infrequent and not distracting, that's fine."

NBA coaches were informed of the changes last week. Beginning Sept. 29th, the league will make presentations on the new rules to the players in all NBA cities.

"We don't want our players looking like they're complaining about calls on the court because it makes them look like complainers," Johnson said. "You do that six times in a game, it really starts to look bad on television. A lot of these things may not look as bad in the arena. But on TV, when attention is focused on it, it stands out."

Henry Abbott is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.