In an effort to improve sportsmanship, NBA referees have been instructed to call more technical fouls during the 2010-2011 season. Dubbed a "respect for the game" violation, any player who now vehemently protests a call (or non-call) toward a game official is likely to be hit with a technical foul. Two technical fouls in a game lead to an ejection. Three technicals, well, that would be impossible.
Anyway, for making players pretend they have actual sportsmanship and agree with the officiating, the NBA has been widely ridiculed by players, broadcasters and, most importantly, the fans who are supposed to benefit from this new interpretation of existing rules. Apparently, people enjoy watching players whine, complain and run around with constipated looks on their faces.
For the Thunder, the NBA's new mandate could be crucial to success. Last season, the entire Thunder roster was whistled for only 14 technical fouls. Three of those were assessed on Serge Ibaka, who to be fair, knows limited English and, therefore, is probably only comfortable saying cuss words or lines from "Jersey Shore" or "The Big Bang Theory."
Compared to other NBA teams, the Thunder were angels. For example, Orlando big man Dwight Howard was whistled for disrespecting the officials 15 times.
Keep in mind that was just the number of times he crossed the "lenient" line and had a foul called against him. It doesn't count the times he probably should have had a technical foul called.
So if the refs call more technical fouls, Oklahoma City is likely to benefit generously, considering they are already accustomed to abiding by the rules. It should be noted, they are an excellent free-throw shooting team. In addition, the constant lobbying done by players through their shocked expressions and persistent complaints to any referee in earshot will also stop affecting the game as much. The Thunder, with players not debating as vociferously, should no longer fall behind in the battle to make the playing surface an actual courtroom.
Of course, like all changes, those affected will likely adjust when they realize the league is committed to changing the game environment. By then, the Thunder's good-guy routine will no longer be unique. Could their tendency to respect the officials have benefitted them in the past?
Well, they were third in the league in free throws attempted last season, so there is evidence that the refs were not swallowing their whistles because OKC behaved like a bunch of pushovers. If the rest of the league follows suit, it might actually end up hurting the Thunder.
As of now, it's too early in the 2010 season to determine how the new rule emphasis has impacted the Thunder. My guess is that it will give them a slight advantage.
However if they don't improve other things " like defense, defense and defense " it doesn't really matter.
Matthews is an editor of the popular local news and entertainment blog TheLostOgle.com.