HOUSTON -- Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff went on a rant ripping the officiating following Houston's 123-122 loss to the Washington Wizards on Saturday. He said the referees need to be held accountable for failing to protect his star center, Dwight Howard.
Bickerstaff was upset about losing Howard, who was ejected for drawing two technical fouls in the game. Bickerstaff said Howard suffered injuries as a result of some of the physical contact he endured against the Wizards.
"It's not fair the way the referees ref Dwight," Bickerstaff said. "You can go back and look at clip after clip after clip. They initiate contact with him, they grab him, they hold him. Dwight gets punished more than anybody in the league. The referees need to be held accountable. They want to keep the game clean. The referees need to do their job from the beginning of the night. Over and over again, the same situation happens. At some point in time, you want to protect the league's players on a night in and night out basis.
"This crew is no exception. They didn't protect Dwight. They allowed people to hit him. They allowed people to grab his neck, grab his arms and hold his shoulders. He's going to get hurt, plain and simple. The reason why he has the back problems and knee problems is because people jump on his back and grab on his shoulders.
"These referees need to be held accountable for letting people attack Dwight and be that physical with him. And dirty -- it's not physical. If they let Dwight be physical and be clean, that's one thing. They're not clean with the way they play. We don't mind being physical. He's not afraid of that. But cheap is one thing -- grabbing somebody's shoulders, grabbing somebody's arms -- that's not clean basketball. And it's not just tonight, but tonight is an example of it."
Howard said he endured several armbars that eventually forced his shoulder to pop out three times during the game.
"Some of the stuff was uncalled for, and it wasn't basketball," said Howard, who was also ejected from Friday's game against San Antonio. "I can see just being physical, wrestling in the paint, that's one thing, but doing armbars -- this is basketball, this is not UFC. Stuff like that can cause players to get injured. You don't want that. Just play basketball. I wouldn't intentionally try to hurt anybody. I wouldn't want people to try to intentionally hurt me."
Howard, who leads the NBA with 12 technicals, was kicked out after tussling with Wizards center Nene with 8:08 to play in the fourth quarter. After Howard and Nene were tangled up, they pushed each other. Referee Mitchell Ervin extended his arm to keep Howard at bay, but the Rockets center pushed the arm down and walked away as Nene yelled at him. Howard later apologized for pushing the referee's arm down.
"They called the timeout after they called the travel. To bail [the other official] out, he said he called a timeout. Those are plays that can't be missed." Interim Rockets coach J.B. Bickerstaff
"The rulings on Nene and Howard were Nene was initially issued his first technical foul for wrapping Howard in the upper torso area," official John Goble said in a statement. "Howard was then issued a technical foul for pushing Nene. Nene was then issued a second technical foul for continuing to taunt Howard after that."
Bickerstaff later picked up a technical foul with 3:52 to play in the fourth quarter after running from the bench area to midcourt to call a timeout as James Harden was tied up in front of the Wizards' bench. The timeout was awarded, but not until Bickerstaff ran onto the floor to get it called. The Rockets were ahead 113-109 at the time of the technical.
"I called timeout 46 times," Bickerstaff said with his voice rising. "Standing there, [the referee] acknowledged that he saw me, but he didn't blow his whistle. They called the timeout after they called the travel. To bail [the other official] out, he said he called a timeout. Those are plays that can't be missed. It's a one-point game. They win the game by one point on that technical foul because they weren't in position to make the call."