Ten NBA referees are sidelined due to health and safety protocols related to COVID-19, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.
Another referee is also sidelined due to injury, per ESPN.
This marks the most NBA referees to be out at the same time due to health and safety protocols this season, Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s vice president of referee development and training, told ESPN. Most of the absences come from contact tracing, according to ESPN.
The referees sidelined include “veteran officials typically assigned to the NBA Finals,” in Holmes’s words. They are all reportedly expected to return for in time for the playoffs.
“We’ve had people miss games. We’ve had more two-person games [instead of a three-person crew] than we’ve ever had in a season,” McCutchen told Sports Illustrated‘s Howard Beck last month. “But the vast majority of those are because of an inconclusive test, a test that ended up being negative every time after that. But someone still missed the game, because we’re committed to the health and safety of the people who are putting on the game.”
Absences of usual officials are also leading to more G League referees appearing in NBA games, with McCutchen telling ESPN that six G League referees have worked more NBA games than previously anticipated.
Typically, a G League referee who is close to becoming an NBA staffer may work six to eight NBA games a year, but this year those officials are working 20-25, McCutchen said.
According to ESPN, NBA general managers have approached McCutchen about the level of officiating this year and how quality of officiating has negatively affected games.
“It’s been bad all year,” one GM told ESPN. Another GM described the replacement referees as “young and inexperienced.”
“I think every single person that is a participant in that game has somewhat of an empathy for what everyone else is going through,” McCutchen told SI. “And I think that everyone—players, coaches, and even our referees in adjudication—have taken into account, ‘Hey, we’re all under the gun here, we’re all really doing our best.’ And I think that it speaks to the overall goodness of our league.”
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