Dwight Howard will have to watch his reactions thanks to new technical foul guidelines from the NBA.
Dwight Howard, you are officially warned. You have been put on notice, Superman. All that complaining and all those technical fouls you accumulated last year (a mere two away from the mandatory one-game suspension that comes on your 17th technical foul).
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop was the first to report the NBA will have a stricter technical foul policy this upcoming season. The league wants to cut down on the appearance of players complaining and whining too much and are going to penalize players more for it.
As Abbott reported, referees are instructed now to call technical fouls when:
"• 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."
I think we can safely say almost every major player does all of those things. The NBA tried to impose similar restrictions back in 2005 with very little success. Referees were too quick to blow the whistle and players did not know what to expect from any situation.
It was an unmitigated disaster.
What the NBA is trying to do is get rid of the hyperbolic reactions Rasheed Wallace made famous. But they also appear to be going for a little more respect toward officials. Maybe the league is trying to improve the image of referees by forcing players to have an outward show of respect toward them. Maybe there is an actual complaint from referees about the way players talk and react to them.
In any case, this policy will be in place... at least for the beginning of the season.
"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."
So this will have major consequences for Orlando. Dwight Howard was one of the league leaders in technical fouls last year. He is known for whining a little too much toward referees and a lot of what he does definitely falls within the above guidelines for technical fouls. Howard is known for standing and smiling at referees or holding his arms out wide in a pleading for the referees to change their mind after an offensive foul call.
I am in the party that thinks Howard gets called for more fouls and does not get the benefit of the doubt because of his persistent whining toward the referees. And Howard has always expressed that displeasure even in the media. These guidelines will leave him even more open to the referee's ire.
Officials, as we learned from the whole Tim Donaghy issue, are humans too. They have biases and play favorites. It is human nature. Not much you can do about it. The NBA, instead of implementing a policy like this should be working to try and eliminate as much official bias as possible. This gives referees a whole ton of discretion that can affect games.
Imagine the Kendrick Perkins Game Five situation happening more than just randomly (insert conspiracy theory about that incident here). That was clearly (or not so clearly, see before conspiracy theory inserted there) a situation where the referees forgot Perkins had a technical foul already and gave him another one. Referees usually are not willing to do that.
So... consistency is undoubtedly going to be an issue. Referees cannot possibly maintain order under these new guidelines and still not overtly affect the game.
These new rules will likely last just like that last set of new technical foul rules did. There was emphasis on them early and then after too many complaints and inconsistencies, things will go back to normal.
At least that has to be hope. Otherwise, Dwight Howard will need to keep a lid on his complaints or Marcin Gortat should be ready.