'I stated facts': NBA fines Monty Williams $20K for 'public criticism' of officiating after Suns loss at Lakers
SACRAMENTO – After Monty Williams dropped the mic and stormed out of his postgame press conference Wednesday following a 90-second rant about the whistle, the NBA’s reaction was inevitable.
The Phoenix Suns head coach was fined $20,000 for “public criticism” of the officiating after Wednesday’s loss at the Los Angeles Lakers, the league announced Friday.
"I like the fact that he got our back," Suns guard Cameron Payne said. "It's just cool that he got our backs. I feel like we need that."
During last season’s playoffs, Williams was fined $15,000 after losing Game 4 at New Orleans in the first round for calling out the same thing he took issue with Wednesday – free throw disparity.
Pelicans 118, Suns 103 – New Orleans 32-of-42 FTs, Phoenix 10-of-15.
Lakers 122, Suns 111 – Los Angeles 36-of-46 FTs, Phoenix 15-of-20.
“I’m looking for a level of equity when it comes to that kind of stuff,” Williams said after Thursday’s practice. Phoenix concludes its three-game road trip Friday against the Kings.
“I had a talk with the league last week. I think the league has been pretty lenient in allowing people to express themselves. At the same time, when I see what I see, there’s a number of things. I’m fighting for my team. I’m calling out what I see and I stated facts. Forty-six free throws, that’s a lot of free throws. That’s almost a free throw per minute.”
The Lakers finished plus-21 at the line in a 10-point game.
“I can sit here and rant and rave about what I feel like is not a fair whistle," Williams said after Wednesday’s game. “It's just not. Forty-six free throws. We're doing the same thing. We're attacking the rim. I'm getting explanations about we're taking too many jump shots, midrange jump shots. We're playing a physical game. They had 27 free throws in the first half. They end up with 46. When do you see a game with 46 free throws for one team? That's just not right."
The Suns were called for 31 fouls while the Lakers committed 20. It was the second straight game Phoenix was whistled for 31 fouls. The Suns are 27th in fewest fouls committed a game at 21.5.
“We're just trying to find ways to deal with it," Suns All-Star Devin Booker said of the disparities with free throws and fouls Wednesday. "For everybody that's saying we're complaining too much, the game was on live TV. You can go re-watch it and see where the frustrations are coming from."
Twenty-four hours later, Williams stood by his words, but did acknowledge his team was “reaching” on some of the fouls.
“When I see the contact that our guys are absorbing, I just said what I said,” Williams said. “I did see where we were reaching also and I talked to our guys like that, but I also saw this phenomenon in the league now where we’re just running into defenders and it’s hard to tell your guys what to do in those situations. That’s where a lot of the frustration lies for all coaches. You’re trying to adapt, but there’s some frustration there when you have a close game like that, but you see a huge disparity in free throws.”
Last week, Williams spoke with NBA executive vice president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, about this issue after a 116-104 loss to Milwaukee on March 14 in Phoenix.
Giannis Antetokounmpo went 14-of-24 from the line while Phoenix as a team finished 14-of-16.
The Bucks ended the game 24-of-37 on free throws.
Knowing Dumars from having played against him in the NBA, Williams said he has much respect for the two-time NBA champion with the Pistons. He said the conversation was “cordial,” but added that the league will “be straight” with the coaches over situations.
“The conversation was productive,” Williams said. “It wasn’t like, ‘How you’re doing.’ We’re in the thick of the season, but I think it was him making an official call discussing what I said and getting my feedback on it.”
Dumars announced the $20K fine Friday.
Williams said he has “great rapport with almost all of the officials,” noting he’s told them they were correct on a call he questioned earlier in a game.
“And I’ve had officials come to me and say, ‘Mont, I missed it,’” Williams said. “To me, that’s trust. I’ve been in the league for a while and a lot of the officials were just starting when I played. So you have the relationship with them.”
Suns All-Star Chris Paul voiced his concerns after Wednesday’s game about the dialogue between the referees and players during games.
“It’s crazy how some of them you can’t even talk to them or approach them from the jump ball,” Paul said. “That’s just the dynamics of the (NBA) competition committee been talking about for years, trying to fix that dynamic of the communication because the communication is horrible.”
Williams remembers having words with then-longtime referee Joe Crawford in his earlier days as a coach that ended with Crawford admitting he was wrong and asking him to be quiet.
“I’d be like, alright Joey,” a laughing Williams said.
Williams isn’t so sure today’s referees are up for those type of exchanges.
“The newer generation of officials, you may not have that relationship with them, and they may not be comfortable doing that,” he said.
With that being said, Williams is against referees being publicly held more accountable.
“You never want them officiating out of fear,” he said. “I think if you put them on blast every time they make a mistake, I don’t know if that helps the game. I don’t know if it helps the game. I think there’s a number of ways to get the game where it needs to go privately.”
The NBA does have the "Last 2 Minute Reports' that addresses made and missed calls and non calls in the final two minutes of games "that were at or within three points during any point in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter (and overtime, where applicable)."
However, a referee's name isn't attached to the call and the league doesn't tweet out a missed call or non-call in those situations that help determine the outcome of a game. The NBA does announce fines for players and coaches through social media.
Williams added that he doesn’t always agree with the calls, but he respects the job they do and has expressed that to them during NBA meetings in Chicago.
“The reality is, coaches and players don’t get cracked on everything that we do,” Williams said. “Most of our mistakes go hidden. If you have good players, a lot of your mistakes as a coach go hidden. I don’t think that’s necessary. Me personally, they’ve spent a lot of time trying to get it right. There’s just going to be mistakes and when those mistakes happen, you just work towards a solution.”
The Suns still had open wounds from last Sunday’s 124-120 loss at Oklahoma City where the Thunder finished 29-of-36 from the line to Phoenix going 17-of-24.
OKC All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nearly matched the Suns in makes (16) and attempts (19) by himself as he’s second in the NBA in makes (9.7) and fourth in attempts (10.7 per game).
After that game, Paul acknowledged the challenges of officiating.
“Referees got a hard job, man,” Paul said. “It’s got to be hard on them, night in and night out trying to officiate games.”
Williams said Thursday he’s long advocated to go from three for four NBA officials to adjust to how the game has changed from when he played.
“I just feel like four officials will give you a chance to cover things a bit more efficiently and maybe one guy can stay back, and they rotate it where guys don't have to run three or four miles every game," Williams said.
Williams said he’s talked with fellow NBA coaches about this.
“The game is so fast paced,” Williams said. “The athletes are quicker and faster, and it’s so spread out. When I first came into the league, everything was in the paint. You’d have seven or eight guys in the paint every possession. Now, you’ve got all kinds of quadrants you’ve got to cover. You’re going to have some mistakes.”
Williams elaborated on the challenges of officiating today’s game by pointing out how referees now must track shooters like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard launching from different area codes.
“Now you have officials out by the 28-foot hash watching to see if a guy is getting fouled on a jump shot that’s 30 feet from the basket,” he said. “We’ve never had that before. If it was a 3, it was 23 feet. Those were 10, 12, 15 a game. Now everything is so spread out with the motion offenses and teams playing in Point-5, it’s a lot to cover.”
Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at email@example.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.
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