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Replacement Referees Most Likely to Start the NBA Season

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If you're among those that think NBA refereeing is downright awful and revolting (see former-Piston, Rasheed Wallace) then this news might interest you.

Via the New York Times:

After months of negotiations, the N.B.A. continues to insist on cutting 10 percent from the referees’ budget for the 2009-2010 season. The National Basketball Referees Association’s (N.B.R.A.) most recent proposal, which the N.B.A. rejected, offered to cut more than $2.5 million from last season’s budget. This includes cutting travel costs by 15 percent and per diem by 7 percent. The referees have also agreed to freeze their salaries for the 2009-2010 season. This represents a 10 percent savings to the N.B.A. from the salaries it paid during the 2008-2009 season. While demanding cutbacks, the league also says it is necessary to add two new N.B.A. Developmental League referees to the staff, even though the referees have agreed to take on the additional workload.

The N.B.R.A. recognizes the difficult economic climate, and has been attempting to work with the N.B.A. to negotiate a two-year contract to ride out the current downturn (previous contracts were for five years).

...

Despite the N.B.R.A.’s willingness to agree to reduce costs, the N.B.A. has begun to contact replacement referees to work at least the early part of the preseason and regular season.

Okay, so that's pretty much the numbers game and what the refs are attempting to do against what the NBA wants, but what is this actually about?

This snippet from ESPN might help you better understand the meat of it:

The referees have argued against the severity of a 10-percent budget cut by insisting that the late hours they work and difficult travel conditions they endure -- in addition to the injury risks and daily scrutiny they're subjected to -- make them unlike any other group of NBA employees. The refs' union has also protested the reductions by questioning the raises it says have been awarded to three senior league officials in New York -- Ron Johnson, Bernie Fryer and Joe Borgia -- who oversee the referee program.

McMorris also represents Major League Baseball umpires, whose labor contract expires Dec. 31. But the baseball negotiations, in the words of president of the umpires' union Joe West, are on track "to get a deal done well in advance of that date."

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One source with knowledge of the league's thinking has openly questioned the referees' leverage, telling ESPN.com last month and reiterating this week that he expects the refs -- in this depressed economy -- to ultimately accept the additional reduction from $2.5 million to $3.2 million when faced with the reality of not working.

As one might expect from what a potential contract lockout means, the NBA referees feel under appreciated and are threatening to strike should the NBA not ink a deal to the refs' liking. There have not been replacement referees in the NBA since 1995 and two of those replacements went on to become full-time refs.

Personally, and excuse me for thinking this way, I don't care all that much and think the refereeing can't get much worse than it has been in the past few years. In fact, replacements might even help basketball get back to its heydey where a hand check doesn't land you a flagrant foul (of course, I'm being facetious). Most times it's more productive, to have the under valued, blue collared worker just trying to make a name for himself than the overpaid hot shot who thinks he can T up anyone who so much looks at him the wrong way.

But does anyone actually think replacement refs will make that big of a difference? Will it go unnoticed?