The Toronto Raptors are likely Play-In Tournament bound. Just two nights removed from an absurd Scottie Barnes ejection, another Raptors starter has found himself right in the thick of the things with the league’s officiating as the 2022-23 schedule draws to a close.
On Wednesday night, point guard Fred VanVleet unloaded on the officiating crew working the Raptors/LA Clippers game. The 108-100 loss put Toronto a game-and-a-half back of Atlanta for eighth-place, while sitting just half a game up on Washington for 10th-place overall.
“I’ll take a fine, I don’t really care,” the 29-year-old said after some serious thought during his post-game media availability.
It was certainly money well spent, as VanVleet took out his frustrations on nine-year officiating veteran Ben Taylor.
“I thought Ben Taylor was f—ing terrible tonight. For most nights, out of the three [officials] there’s one or two that just f— the game up,” VanVleet said. “It’s been like that a couple games in a row.”
Having just lost in the final minute to Denver on Monday, in a game in which Barnes was tossed after officials claimed he had ‘questioned their integrity’, to which the youngster adamantly denies, the wounds were certainly still fresh on Wednesday.
“I don’t mind, I’ll take a fine. I don’t really care. I thought Ben Taylor was f***ing terrible tonight. On most nights, out of the 3, there’s 1 or 2 that f*** the game up.”
Fred VanVleet on tonight’s officials, and NBA officiating: pic.twitter.com/Plp8DaqNp5
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) March 9, 2023
And according to VanVleet, Taylor’s actions certainly applied pressure to the newly-formed bruise.
“Most of the refs are trying hard, I like a lot of refs, they’re trying hard, they’re pretty fair, they communicate well,” he said. “But then you got the other ones who just want to be d—cks. It just kind of f—ks the game up. Nobody’s coming to see that s—t, they come to see the players. I think we’re losing a bit of the fabric of what the NBA is and was. It’s been disappointing this season.
“You can look it up, most of my techs this year have been with Ben Taylor officiating. At a certain point as a player, you feel it’s personal. It’s never a good place to be. That’s not why we lost tonight, we got outplayed but it definitely makes it tougher to overcome.”
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Sure enough, there is a history between VanVleet and Taylor, which dates back throughout the course of the season.
Did some digging on Fred VanVleet:
This season he has played 55 and has received 8 technicals
Ben Taylor has been an official in 6 of his games and in them, Fred VanVleet has received 5(!) technicals
3 of them directly from Taylor himself
He is definitely on to something.. pic.twitter.com/lmZPwLkc12
— Jacob (@jacob_gramegna) March 9, 2023
Ep 113: The Patriots And The AFC East
by Full Press Coverage on March 17, 2023 at 2:14 pm
“What are we doing?” VanVleet asked. “There’s a fine line, obviously, I understand that but I think the jurisdiction and the power trip that we’ve been on this year with some of our officials in this league is getting out of hand. I’ll take my fine for speaking on it but this is f—ing ridiculous.”
Toronto outshoot Los Angeles 96 to 71 in the game – including 13 three-pointers to the Clippers’ six – had more rebounds (15-9) and five less turnovers, yet wound up on the free throw line just 14 times.
L.A. had 31 free throws.
“There’ve been certain times this year where I feel our team is getting consumed with the way the whistle is going, especially after the night we just had in Denver, the way that finished,” he said. “There were a couple calls early that we all disagreed with, and if I say to my team ‘Come on guys, let’s keep playing through the bulls—t’ and that warrants a tech, I think that’s a little bit crazy… Denver was tough, obviously. You come out tonight competing pretty hard, in the third quarter, I get a bulls—t tech, [it] changes the whole dynamic of the game, changes the whole flow of the game.”
The bulls—t tech VanVleet was referring to came in the middle stages of the third quarter, which changed the course of the game, or so VanVleet says.
He did put up 13 points and nine assists in the game, but in averaging just over 19 points and just under seven assists a game, VanVleet is having a challenging year. His shooting percentage from the three point line is under 35 percent. Despite being a worthy trade deadline acquisition for any team hoping for a deep postseason run, the Raptors opted to keep their starting point guard at least for the remainder of the season. He likely will not pick up his $23 million option for 2023-24, and test the free agent market this offseason.
VanVleet and the 32-35 Raptors are not the only team battling the officials, as Boston’s Marcus Smart weighed in on the situation shortly after VanVleet’s comments became public knowledge.
But Smart found a crafty way around a league-imposed fine.
“I don’t know if you guys have seen Fred VanVleet’s interview,” Smart said. “That’s all I’m gonna say. Obviously, it let you know that I’m not speaking out of my butt. And I’m not the only one that feels that way. So I’m gonna let Fred do all the talking.”
But he did say that he has been in VanVleet’s shoes before, on many occasions – as recently as this past season.
“I’ve had, in my nine years, I definitely have had that where I’ve felt that an official had a personal vendetta,” Smart added. “And numerous, too. They have bad days, just like we do. So it’s only fair to notice and understand and have empathy in the fact that sometimes they’re gonna let their emotions get the best of them and make calls and judgment calls the way that they officiate. It happens.
“As players we just want that consistency. Just like for us, we get emotional, too. But, for us, we get in trouble for it. And we just want that consistency around. And that’s it. So I had that in the past but, like I said, I’m going to let Fred do all my talking around that.”
With both VanVleet and Smart weighing in, the League has certainly taken notice. But with Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse also commenting on the situation at hand, things may become a little more heated the next time Toronto is handed the services of Mr. Taylor.
“Obviously, somewhere within a minute to go of that game, one of the officials got very upset with (Barnes),” Nurse said before the game against Los Angeles, following Barnes’ ejection. “From my personal standpoint, there wasn’t much angst in that game at all — from either coach, from any players, from whatever. There were a couple tough plays there at the end. Scottie was involved in a couple of them. He obviously talked on the first one, which I challenged. He had a lot of time to talk on that one. But again, Scottie is not a real rough talker. Even if he’s talking, it’s probably not that hard to take it.”
Well, coach Nurse, Fred VanVleet is certainly a talker, so this time, the onus seems to fall on the officials to get things back in check. The Raptors next play on Friday, as they make their way back to Crypto.com Arena where they will take on LeBron James and the Lakers.
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