Even When the Pistons Win, They Lose

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse for Detroit...

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 26: Head coach Monty Williams of the Detroit Pistons reacts during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 26, 2024 in New York City. The New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons 113-111.
Detroit Pistons head coach Monty Williams was justifiably angry with last night's officiating crew at Madison Square Garden.
Getty Images

The 2023-24 Detroit Pistons are, at best, one of the worst teams in NBA history. An argument can be made that, if one removes teams that actively tried to tank their season from the list, the Pistons are, in fact, the worst squad ever to lace up at this level. If staring at an 8-49 record in the standings wasn’t bad enough for Detroit, their officiating crew for last night’s game against the Knicks injected even more misery into the situation.

In the chaotic closing seconds of the contest in New York, the Pistons were actually winning by a point. Forward Ausar Thompson intercepted a pass from Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo and began to push the ball up the court to ice a win. Then, with eight seconds left, DiVincenzo dove for the ball, and in the process took out Thompson’s legs. Another Knicks guard, Jalen Brunson, snatched the loose ball, screamed a pass deep into the key to teammate Josh Hart, who banked it into the net for two game-winning points. Hart added one more on a free throw after a foul was called on his shot attempt.

The foul that wasn’t called moments earlier on DiVincenzo drew intense ire from Pistons head coach Monty Williams after the game.

“The absolute worst call of the season — no call,” Williams said, barely able to compose himself during his postgame press conference. “And enough’s enough.”

In the ensuing rant, Williams discussed his organization’s efforts to correct poor officiating throughout the season, apparently to no avail. Later in the evening, the referee crew chief, James Williams, told the Associated Press that his officiating team had missed the call on DiVincenzo.

“That’s an abomination. You cannot miss that in an NBA game. Period,” Williams said, back in his postgame presser. He added, “That situation is exhibit A to what we’ve been dealing with all season long, and enough’s enough. You cannot dive into a guy’s legs in a big time game like that, and there be a no call. It’s ridiculous, and we’re tired of it. We just want a fair game called.”

Lakers to Address Officiating of LeBron James With NBA
Star’s lack of free throws against the Grizzlies raises concerns

It’s another very public display of outrage against NBA refs by league players and coaches, a problem that has probably been around since the dawn of the league, but appears to be worsening. In April 2023, The Athletic asked NBA players what the biggest issue facing the league was, and more than a quarter of them said “officiating,” making it the most popular answer. Last month, Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown broke down multiple sequences where calls were missed on a laptop during a postgame press conference after a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The recent anger has been profound enough that NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed it during All-Star Weekend a couple weeks ago. “It’s not a typical workplace. We have to take into account the high stress [referees are] under,” he said. Referring to communication between players and officials, he added, “There just has to be a two-way sense of respect. I’m sympathetic to the frustration and feel it’s an area where we can make progress.”

Around the same time last year, Silver told ESPN that the league punishes officials for errors, but keeps things behind closed doors.

Whatever the NBA is doing to improve officiating, it’s not enough for players and coaches. With advanced camera technology at arenas beaming missed and blown calls into the homes of fans, they’re not appreciative of the effort either. In fact, one fan on X last night pointed out that, during the same late-game sequence, referees may have missed multiple foul calls that would’ve benefitted the Knicks. With the playoffs approaching, there’s more to come on this topic to be sure.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Crypto.com Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!