Stern admits officials miss '5 percent' of calls

Updated: May 2, 2006, 8:27 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- While saying he was happy with the way the officials are handling the playoffs, commissioner David Stern acknowledged on Tuesday that NBA referees are missing about 5 percent of the calls.

"Is the question do I think the officials miss a play? Absolutely!" Stern said during an impromptu news conference before the New Jersey Nets and Indiana Pacers met in Game 5 of their first-round series.

"It happens at least probably 5 percent of the time," Stern added.

There have been increasing complaints about the officials in the playoffs this season. Jermaine O'Neal of the Pacers was fined $15,000 for comments about them after Game 2, and Miami's Shaquille O'Neal was fined $25,000 for his public criticisms.

The Heat complained after Chicago had a 31-5 advantage on free throws in Game 4 of that series.

The Suns groused after MVP Steve Nash could not get a call late in a loss to the Lakers on Sunday. And it looked like LeBron James of Cleveland may have traveled before a game-winning shot against Washington on Friday night.

"Our goal is to make the officiating perfect, at 100 percent," Stern said. "We have not and we never will achieve that result. But I think we have the best officials, the best-monitored officials, the best-developed officials in all of sports."

Stern would not say whether the officials had been instructed to call tighter games in the playoffs, but he said they have always clamped down when teams get more physical.

"We think that our players are the most talented athletes in the world and people come to watch them play, not to fight, bump and knock each other down," Stern said.

Stern had no sympathy for anyone fined for complaining about the officials.

"I don't think we are tough enough. Play the game, stop complaining, and if you don't like it, get a job someplace else," Stern said. "That's my rule. OK. That's the system and if they don't like [it], go to some other system. We have a great league here."

The escalating noise level in arenas and the excessive time it takes to play the final minutes of a game are a growing concern for Stern.

He said the league is monitoring noise levels and fining teams for exceeding it.

"It makes us the big regulators in the sky, you know, what you wear and how you play and what you do. It's got to be the worst part of the job. But we will continue to do it," Stern said.

The league plans to examine the numbers of timeouts at the end of the game, adding there already are limits.

"Usually I come into the office and say, 'Will someone please time the last three minutes of this game that took 22 minutes and tell me why?'" Stern said. "I'm not sure that we're showing our fans our best basketball."

Stern said there are commercial realities that stretch the end of a game, but he added the excess time is good for commercials, not basketball.

On other matters, Stern expects the Nets' move from East Rutherford to Brooklyn, N.Y. to be completed. He was not sure whether the team's goal to be there by 2009 was possible.

The commissioner said no league-wide expansion was planned. He also said the league would never limit the number of international players.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press