(Photo: DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES)
The Los Angeles Clippers are not in a good place at the moment, having just lost 3 of their last 4 games which is a major setback considering it felt like things were on the upswing after winning 6 in a row. In a season filled with lofty expectations where many in the basketball world picked the Clippers to come out of the Western Conference this season, the pursuit of meeting those expectations has come up short thus far and this most recent setback adds another level of frustration for the Clippers’ players.
That frustration boiled over in Thursday night’s game against the Cavs in Cleveland where the Clips were assessed 5 technical fouls and 1 flagrant foul in a game they were never in, losing 105-94.
Doc Rivers set the tone of discontent early for the Clippers, getting called for a technical in the 1st quarter. Rivers later explained it was more a tactic to light a fire under their Clippers players that got out the gates sluggishly.
“I got one early just trying to get our guys going,” Coach Rivers said. “I would have liked to have gotten two at that point. That would have been terrific.”
Rivers lit a fire under his guys alright but at the end of that fuse it wasn’t better play as the Cavs continued to dominate the game, but rather it was three-fifths of his starting line-up losing composure in the 3rd quarter where 4 technical fouls were called on the Clippers, including the one assessed to Paul. The following video starts at the point where the technical foul was called on CP3 in the 3rd (sorry, you’ll have to manually stop at about 1 minute and 25 seconds).
From the video you can plainly see that there was nothing from Chris Paul’s part that would warrant a technical foul at that point, but you also can’t hear what might have been said to rookie NBA official Lauren Holtkamp either; Paul revealed his account of what was said in a post game interview.
It is that last part of his comment “…this might not be for her” that has garnered Paul some heat this morning not because he questioned a referee, a big no-no in the NBA that usually brings forth a hefty fine, it is because it was directed at a woman referee which many construed as sexist.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a woman, a young one that is one day hoping to pursue a career in journalism which like many is dominated by men. As such, I have a heighten awareness of any type of behavior that hints at being sexist or misogynistic from those in the field that I one day hope to cover. I think I am qualified to identify any derogatory or prejudice laced comments against women and what I heard from Chris Paul on Thursday was definitely not that.
Going back to the 10 minute mark where Paul was assessed a technical by Holtkamp it should be noted that the call was proceeded by a questionable technical foul on Matt Barnes for what the refs deemed as unnecessary rough play after a foul on Kevin Love, a technical so uncalled-for that “ridiculous” was used to describe it by TNT announcer Reggie Miller during the telecast.
Continuing with setting of the scene prior to the Paul’s technical, the Clippers are getting their brains beat in by a team that is considered to be a championship contender so they’re frustrated that they are falling short on their measuring stick. The Clippers are also on the 9th day of a 13 day road trip that has them in 20 degree and snowy Cleveland before they’ll have to get on a flight to Toronto for a game on the 2nd night of a back to back.
To recap, Brains getting beat in, 9th day of a road trip with 4 more days remaining, spending a cold Thursday in Cleveland before a back to back in colder Toronto, losers of their last 2 of 3 games and already recipients of questionable calls in the game, all put together it would get any competitive player in a high stakes game blood boiling.
The level of frustration from the Clippers in the 3rd quarter was apparent to all watching except for those where its identification was most important, those in charge of calling and most importantly, controlling the game. The control of the game, or lack thereof, is where Holtkamp and the rest of the referee crew failed on Thursday and it is what fueled Paul’s inflamed reaction in the game and comments after it.
Players making a stink about bad calls during a game, a poorly called game by a group of refs or singling out one bad ref isn’t new, it’s been a long time NBA tradition. The fact that this one time the stink is being made about a woman shouldn’t become news.
It is actually insulting as a woman that people need to come to a woman’s defense because she’s being criticized for her work performance with the proverbial woman in distress treatment.
If anything, Paul’s criticism of Holtkamp is a sign of progress for women in that he didn’t feel the need to pussyfoot or hold his tongue because of her gender; he bashed her about her performance and ability to do the job like he would have with Ken Mauer or Ed Malloy or Joe Crawford or any other male referee that warranted such criticism.
I’ll go further and state that the suggestion of Paul’s comments of Holtkamp being considered sexist is the actual sexist act, not the comments themselves.
While I cheer for women to succeed in every man dominated industry in order to serve as motivation for other women to pursue the same path to success that at one time wasn’t available, I want that success to be reached on merit and for them to have faced the same obstacles that men also face in that industry, which in the case of NBA referees is criticism of their performance or ability from all, including players, which is what occurred on Thursday night.
Paul wasn’t questioning her because she’s a woman in my opinion, he was questioning her because of her ability to call a game and to understand the moment. I have no clue if Holtkamp is a good NBA referee, if she possess the skills, good judgement and quick thinking that is required of the position, but I respect the opinion of Chris Paul and take him at his word that he feels that this one referee might not have what it takes.
I firmly believe that Paul wasn’t condemning Holtkamp because she’s a female referee, he was condemning her because he felt she’s a bad referee, she just happens to be a female. If that is the case, if she is in fact a bad referee that lacks the skills required to do the job, maybe this isn’t for her.