Refs mourn friend, colleague Nolan Fine

Nolan Fine brought a relaxed approach to his job as an NBA referee, his close friend and colleague Joe Forte said Tuesday, and it served him well in his 16 seasons officiating in the league.

So did his sense of humor. Forte recalled a game in Sacramento about 25 years ago, back in the low-tech days, when referees filled out their game reports and technical foul reports on paper and mailed them to NBA HQ. So when a courtside fan loudly wondered why Fine wasn’t T-ing up several obstinate players, the ref fired back “I can’t afford all the stamps.”

Fine, 60, died Saturday in Virginia Beach, Va., news that hit Forte hard. The men had been friends for three decades, dating back to their time together working college basketball games in the Metro Conference. When their performance in the 1987 NCAA tournament earned them, along with Joe Sylvester, the assignment of the Indiana-Syracuse championship game, Fine at 31 became the youngest referee ever to work that event.

“He stayed relaxed but his mind was really into the game,” Forte said by phone Tuesday. “He knew team fouls, personal fouls, time on the clock… He was a real journeyman referee whom you liked on the court and off the court. It was always a real pleasure to see his name on the assignment sheet next to mine.”

Of Fine’s passing, Bob Delaney, NBA vice president of referee operations, said: “Nolan Fine was a great NBA Official and an even better person. Nolan will be remembered for his passion and commitment to our profession. Every NBA referee, past and present, offers condolences to his family.”

Fine, born in Norfolk, Va., played varsity golf in high school and at Tulane University so well that Forte wondered why he didn’t try to qualify for the pro tour. Fine’s entry into basketball came from attending Virginia Squires games in the old American Basketball Association and becoming friendly with longtime NBA/ABA ref Joe Gushue. It was Gushue who helped Fine gets his start as a college referee.

Fine and Forte, 11 years older, moved to the NBA in 1988. After Fine exited the league a decade ago due to a back disability and Forte retired, Fine assisted his friend in supervising referees in the Big South Conference.

Two years ago, after an official ejected an especially abusive fan from an Old Dominion game, a Norfolk TV station sought out Fine as a local authority. He said such incidents are rare but acceptable, and he mentioned the 2001 game in Miami when an NBA ref tossed out singer Jimmy Buffett over a profanity-laced rant from his courtside seat. That referee was Forte.

Forte noted, among the things basketball fans might not have known about Fine, was that he was an art collector, as well as a fan of the “Rat Pack” and Jerry Lewis. His obituary can be found here.

Hall of Fame presenters announced

The Hall of Fame on Tuesday released the lineup of presenters for Friday night’s Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, Mass., a group with the kind of star power to attract a separate spotlight despite having no role other than standing a few feet away while the members of the Class of 2017 give an acceptance speech.

Each inductee picks their presenter(s), the only stipulation being that the representative who joins them on stage must be in the Hall. If the new Hall member is not present to choose, as often happens with deceased inductees, the basketball museum selects on their behalf.

The list for this year:

  • Zelmo Beaty, presented by Lenny Wilkens.
  • Darell Garretson, presented by David Stern.
  • Allen Iverson, presented by Larry Brown,  Julius Erving and John Thompson.
  • Tom Izzo, presented by Gary Williams.
  • John McLendon, presented by Wayne Embry, Sam Jones, Isiah Thomas and Thompson.
  • Shaquille O’Neal, presented by Erving, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell and Thomas.
  • Cumberland Posey, presented by Earl Monroe.
  • Jerry Reinsdorf, presented by Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen.
  • Sheryl Swoopes, presented by Van Chancellor and Nancy Lieberman.
  • Yao Ming, presented by Dikembe Mutombo, Russell and Bill Walton.

It’s hard to imagine many better gatherings of centers than a night with Russell, O’Neal, Walton, Mourning, Mutombo and Yao in the same building. And that list of coaches: Jackson, Brown, Wilkens, Izzo, Thompson and Williams.

NBA world congratulates Team USA on winning Olympic gold

After Team USA won its third consecutive Olympic gold medal, the NBA family — including players, teams and previous gold medalists — chimed in on Twitter to extend their congrats.

Of course, players from the 2016 Olympic roster also turned to social media to celebrate their outstanding accomplishment.


A photo posted by Paul George (@ygtrece) on


A photo posted by Kyle Lowry (@kyle_lowry7) on

From Third Ward to a GOLD medalist! I love you Mama, thank you for everything! 1/4

A photo posted by DeAndre Jordan (@deandrejordan6) on


A photo posted by DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) on

What a feeling!!!! Reppin the Red white and Blue is an amazing honor!!! 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

A photo posted by Draymond Green (@money23green) on

#7#10 after we got that gold dawg!!

A photo posted by Kyle Lowry (@kyle_lowry7) on

It was all worth it to do it with you guys and for OUR country! #USA #goldmedalists

A photo posted by DeAndre Jordan (@deandrejordan6) on


Carmelo Anthony leads meeting on police, community tensions

LOS ANGELES — Continuing to encourage dialogue as an important early step to easing tensions between police and the African-American community in many cities, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony used Team USA’s day off to help assemble an estimated 200 people, from teenagers to adults, citizens to senior law-enforcement officers, for two hours of discussions at a Boys & Girls Club.

“We had a bunch of youth, had a bunch of police officers, had a bunch of community leaders of all race ethnicities, athletes,” Anthony said. “It was an open forum, open dialogue, an honest conversation. We came together as a group first, as one big group. We discussed some things and then we broke down into eight small groups and each group had athletes, officers, community leaders. What we did was, we just talked about the issues that’s going on out there today and we talked about solutions.

“Now, there’s a lot of solutions that was going on out there today, but we know that nothing’s going to happen overnight. But what we wanted to do was create something that we can start right now and continue on when we leave here today. There were some very, very powerful messages that was being talked about, not just us as athletes but the youth. The youth really, really spoke out today about how they feel about their community, how they feel about police officers, how they feel about relationships and how we can mend these relationships.”

Anthony admitted he does not have an answer on how to move forward from conversation to implementing change — “If  had the solution this would be corrected already,” he said — but was confident meetings like Monday can make a difference. Indeed, others in attendance said the chance to interact in more of a social setting, as opposed to the potential of a confrontational situation on the streets, helps.

So does Anthony and another attendee, Tamika Catchings of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and the women’s Olympic team, lending their name in hopes of resolving the situation, said William Scott, a deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I think it makes a tremendous difference,” Scott said after the gathering. “The platform that these athletes have is worldwide and this issue is an issue that needs attention. We need to have some dialogue and we need to have some solutions to push this forward, so it makes a tremendous difference. It brings not only attention to the issue but it actually, I think, multiplies the facilitation of that dialogue. A lot of these young folks would not have been in this room talking with police had it not been for what these athletes are doing. That’s a tremendous, tremendous benefit to this issue and to us in the city.”

Team USA, which defeated China on Sunday in Staples Center, departed for San Francisco later Monday afternoon in preparation for a second meeting with China on Tuesday night at Oracle Arena in Oakland.


NBA Players Past And Present Express Condolences, Respect For Ali

The death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali late Friday at the age of 74 drew a massive response from, well, pretty much everyone around the globe.

NBA players were especially active among those offering tributes, taking to Twitter to express their respect for the world sporting icon known simply and affectionately as “The Greatest.”

Hall of Famer Charles Barkley also issued a statement on the passing of Ali: “‘Hero’ and ‘Legend’ are used casually today. Muhammad Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King and Bill Russell are both and always will be. I can’t thank these three men enough and it has nothing to do with sports. Thank you, Champ. RIP.”


Reports: Van Gundy out of Rockets’ coaching search; D’Antoni now favorite

Strike one name from the list of potential Rockets head coaching candidates. Jeff Van Gundy is no longer a candidate for the job, according Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.


There was reported to be mutual interest between Van Gundy and Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey. But team owner Leslie Alexander is said to have been less less convinced that a reunion with the man who coached the Rockets from 2003-2007.

Van Gundy told Barry Warner of ESPN 97.5 in Houston: “I have not spoken to the Rockets so speculation about me has been off base.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle says that Mike D’Antoni has now become the favorite to land the job.


NBA finds five officiating errors in last 13.5 seconds of Spurs-Thunder

After reviewing the video from Monday night’s Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, the NBA has ruled there were five officiating errors made in the chaotic final 13.5 seconds of Oklahoma City’s 98-97 win at San Antonio.

The referee trio of crew chief Ken Mauer, Marc Davis and Sean Corbin had previously admitted to missing an offensive foul that should have been called against the Thunder’s Dion Waiters for making contact with the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili on an inbounds pass in a written post-game statement following the game.

According to the daily “Last Two Minute Report,” there were a total of eight incorrect non-calls in the final 91 seconds of the game:

* 1:31 — LaMarcus Aldridge should have been called for setting an illegal screen on Russell Westbrook.

* 1:11 — Tim Duncan should have been called for clamping down on the arm of Steven Adams, preventing him from getting a rebound.

* 55.0 — Duncan should have been called for committing an offensive 3-second violation in the lane.

* 13.5 — Ginobili should have received a delay of game violation for stepping on the sideline while defending the inbound play against Waiters.

* 13.5 — Waiters should have been called for an offensive foul for making contact with Ginobili while attempting the inbound pass.

* 13.5 — Patty Mills should have been called for grabbing and holding Adams, restricting his movement on the inbound.

* 13.5 — Kawhi Leonard should have been called for grabbing Westbrook’s jersey and restricting his movement on the inbound.

* 2.6 — Serge Ibaka should have been called for grabbing and holding Aldridge’s jersey, which affected his shot attempt under the basket.

There were also other questions on the controversial inbounds play. The review ruled that Waiters did not commit a five-second violation on the throw-in. It was ruled that Waiters was permitted to jump in the air on the inbounds pass because he did not leave the designated throw-in area laterally and did not leave the playing surface (i.e. step into the stands) to gain an advantage. It was also ruled that Danny Green did not foul Kevin Durant when he leaped the steal the inbound pass.

No penalty from NBA for Drummond’s elbow? LeBron James not surprised

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The reaction to this one from many in the NBA’s 29 other precincts might be along the lines of puh-leeeze: LeBron James suggested Sunday that he doesn’t get his share of whistles when on the receiving end of physical play.

The bruised and bloodied bodies of fallen opponents strewn behind him might argue to the contrary.

But then, when the NBA has an opportunity to review video of some of the hits the Cleveland star takes – like a high elbow from Detroit center Andre Drummond in Game 3 Friday of the teams’ first-round Eastern Conference series – and issues no retroactive flagrant or technical fouls or fines, maybe James has a case.

James wasn’t complaining at the Cavaliers’ shootaround session Sunday in advance of their closeout opportunity in Game 4 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. But he wasn’t hiding his belief, either, that all physical contact isn’t adjudicated fairly.

Asked about the Drummond blow and the absence of any rebuke, James told reporters: “Initially I was surprised. But then I thought who he did it to and I wasn’t surprised.”

Given the size, speed and power of James’ game, at a muscular 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, the sense among NBA observers long has been that he dishes out punishment without even trying, just from incidental contact that can hurt. The flip side is that, given his strength, he absorbs a lot of contact without getting knocked off course or sent to the floor, resulting in fewer whistles that way as well.

“He’s the Shaq of guards and forwards,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s so strong and so physical when he goes to the basket guys are bouncing off of him. Those are still fouls. But he doesn’t get that call because he’s so big and so strong and so physical.”

Lue, since taking over at midseason as the Cavs head coach, assiduously avoids criticizing the referees or NBA HQ over calls made or not made. It’s a button many coaches push at playoff time, dating back at least to Phil Jackson‘s tweaks while with the Bulls and the Lakers and probably all the way back to Red Auerbach and John Kundla.

Their goal: Plant a seed for the next game. But it can get expensive – witness Stan Van Gundy‘s $25,000 fine after Game 1 for bemoaning what he felt was the refs’ disinterest in calling offensive fouls on James – and it doesn’t suit Lue’s personality.

“It’s their job to clean it up,” said Lue, who proudly notes that he never got a technical foul in 11 years as an NBA point guard. “It’s not my job to complain about the situation at hand.”

James rarely is shy in complaining in the moment about calls he feels should have gone his way. His lightning-rod game and expressive gripes, added to every NBA player’s default position regarding fouls, generates a lot of hoots and hollers from fans in arenas who think James actually gets preferential treatment from the refs.

Some teammates, such as Cavs center Tristan Thompson, are in the middle of the physical play that ramps up in the playoffs and see it differently.

“He gets beat up the most. He gets beat up the most in the league,” Thompson said. “He takes a lot of hits night in and night out, especially in this series, and he keeps pushing and he stays mature.”

James takes the hits but clearly he doesn’t take them lightly. He had a no-nonsense look Sunday morning, suggesting a resolve to limit the Pistons’ shots at him by limiting their playoff run to the minimum of four games.

“I just like to gather my composure, my guys’ composure, going against the opponents’ fans,” James said this close-out opportunity on the road. “I thrive adversity and hostile environments.”

Rockets CEO: ‘No disrespect to Charles’

HOUSTON — Rockets CEO Tad Brown says there was nothing personal in his Twitter fight with Charles Barkley on Thursday night during Game 3 of the playoffs.

At halftime of the TNT telecast, Barkley said, “Ain’t nothing worse than fake hustle. I guarantee you the Rockets are going to lose this game.”

After the Rockets held on to beat the Warriors 97-96, Brown tweeted: “Charles would know, his entire Rockets career was fake hustle.”

In a hallway of Toyota Center Saturday afternoon while both teams practiced, Brown said he did not intend to question Barkley’s credentials as a Hall of Fame player.

“I was a huge fan of his growing up,” Brown said. “I have the greatest respect for him. This has been going on for a long time. Just trying to stand up for my guys. It’s no disrespect to Charles, one of the top 50 players of all time. At some point, just making sure our team knows we’re looking out for them, we’re trying to stand up for them.”

Analytics Art: Lowry still searching for shot in playoffs

VIDEO: Kyle Lowry talks about his role as a leader in Toronto

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

Kyle Lowry made his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance in 2016 while solidifying his standing as one of the league’s elite point guards. The Toronto Raptors won 56 games in the improved Eastern Conference due to his exploits, just one victory off the pace set by the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.

Although Toronto suffered first-round playoff exits in 2014 and ‘15, this season seemed to yield new promise. Lowry’s play oozed confidence on a nightly basis and he ended 2015-16 with career highs in points (21.2 per game) steals (2.1) and rebounds (4.7).

All the while, the 30-year-old’s outside shooting touch thrived. Not only did Lowry attempt a career-high 7.1 3-pointers per game, but he made a career-best 38.8 percent of them.

Everything was clicking for Lowry during the regular season, but the postseason has proved much tougher for him. Though he played well in the 2014 playoffs — averaging 21.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists during a seven-game series against the Brooklyn Nets — he hasn’t experienced the same individual success since.

Quite the contrary, in fact. Lowry was an absolute eyesore in the playoff setting a season ago. During the course of getting swept by John Wall and the Washington Wizards, he shot a ghastly 31.6 percent from the field and an ugly 21.7 percent from 3-point range. Even worse, Lowry failed to reach double-digit scoring in two of Toronto’s four games.

Toronto has turned its first-round fortunes around so far at least as it has built a 2-1 series edge the Indiana Pacers. But while the Raptors are finally winning playoff games again, Lowry’s shooting efficiency remains elusive.

Through the first three games of the series, Lowry is shooting 31.9 percent overall and 22.7 percent on 3-pointers. He’s averaging 8.0 assists per game, but his persistent shooting woes in the playoffs have to be a concern for coach Dwane Casey.

Lowry is a solid bet to make one of the All-NBA teams this year for his stellar regular season performance. That being said, he needs to re-establish that standing if Toronto is going to have any hope of a deep playoff run.