LOS ANGELES -- After fouling out in a 111-106 loss to the Lakers, James Harden declared that referee Scott Foster "for sure" has a "personal" issue with the Houston Rockets and should not be allowed to officiate any more of their games.
Harden was called for four offensive fouls in the loss Thursday at Staples Center, including the call that disqualified him from the game with 1:24 left and the Rockets trailing by six points. That call was made by referee Michael Smith, but it was Foster, the crew chief, who was the target of Harden's wrath.
"Scott Foster, man. I never really talk about officiating or anything like that, but just rude and arrogant," said Harden, who finished with 30 points to extend his streak of 30-point performances to 32 games, the second longest in NBA history. "I mean, you aren't able to talk to him throughout the course of the game, and it's like, how do you build that relationship with officials? And it's not even that call [on the sixth foul]. It's just who he is on that floor.
"It's pretty frustrating. And I'm probably going to get hit [with a fine], but honestly, I don't really say anything. I'm a pretty quiet guy, to myself, but it's one of those things where you can't voice your opinion. You can't have a conversation with someone that's officiating the game. You're getting a tech. It's pretty sad."
This marks the second consecutive season that a Rockets star has publicly called out Foster, a 25-year NBA veteran who was voted as the league's worst referee in a 2016 poll of players and coaches conducted by the Los Angeles Times.
In January of last season, Chris Paul sarcastically referred to Foster as "the man" and "who they pay to see" after being given a technical foul late in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Paul also complained about Foster's unwillingness to communicate with players. The league office did not announce a fine for Paul because of the comments.
Paul also fouled out in Thursday's loss to the Lakers and was called for a technical foul by Foster with 33 seconds left when he disputed a foul on him called by Foster on a Brandon Ingram drive.
"I don't know what else to do, know what I mean?" Paul said, referring to his poor relationship with Foster. "I met with the league with him before and all this stuff. I don't know what else to do."
Foster called only two of the fouls against Harden, but both occurred at critical times. Foster whistled Harden for his third foul with 3:51 left in the first quarter, ruling that the reigning MVP pushed off against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope near half court and forcing coach Mike D'Antoni to substitute for Harden earlier than usual. Foster also called Harden for his fifth foul on a charge with 2:47 left and the Rockets down two points.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Foster issued 18 fouls (personal or technical) in Thursday's game -- 12 against the Rockets and six against the Lakers. Seven of the fouls against the Rockets occurred in the fourth quarter.
Harden, who committed half of his eight turnovers on offensive fouls, said he was bothered more by Foster's attitude than by any particular call.
"I don't really talk about officials or anything, but I think him in particular, he's different," said Harden, who was 11-of-24 from the field and scored only four points on 2-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets blew a 19-point lead in the second half against the Lakers, suffering their third loss in four games. Houston did not attempt a free throw in the final 20 minutes of the game, compared to 17 free throws for the Lakers during that span.
That added fuel to the fire as far as the Rockets' belief that Foster has a vendetta against them.
Harden mentioned that Foster officiated two of the Rockets' losses to the Golden State Warriors in last season's Western Conference finals. Foster also officiated the Rockets' lone loss to the Utah Jazz in the West semifinals.
In addition, Foster was the crew chief the last time that Harden fouled out, in a Dec. 22, 2017, loss to the LA Clippers.
"It's lingering, and it's something that has to be looked at for sure," Harden said. "For sure, it's personal. For sure. I don't think he should be able to even officiate our games anymore, honestly."