Ken Mauer Jr. believes Anthony Edwards was classless when ripping the officiating after his team’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City Monday night, but he said that referees Mark Lindsay, Karl Lane and Matt Myers will not hold a grudge against Ant.
Mauer, the St. Paul native who was a highly respected NBA referee for 37 years, didn’t see the game but heard about comments made by the Timberwolves 22-year-old high scoring guard now in his fourth professional season. Although Minnesota won the game between two of the Western Conference’s premier teams, Edwards said the officiating was “terrible,” that it was like competing against eight opponents on the floor (not five) and that his team won despite not receiving the calls they deserved from referees whose integrity he questioned.
Edwards knew his postgame comments invited punishment from the NBA office. Yesterday the league announced a $40,000 fine for his critical remarks after his team’s 107-101 win, a game where he scored 27 points.
“There’s no class there,” Mauer told Sports Headliners yesterday when asked about Edwards’ critical words. Mauer said there is a professional way to converse with officials and how to talk about them. Edwards crossed the line. “I just think they’re (the rants) without merit,” Mauer said by phone from his home in Florida. “I just don’t understand.”
Basketball is an emotional sport, and it can test the self-control of players as it did with Edwards on Monday night. “He’s a young kid,” Mauer said. “He just doesn’t quite get it yet.”
Edwards, who is averaging 25.5 points per game and has the potential to become a consensus superstar, has been in “hot water” with the league before. In 2022 he was fined $40,000 for anti-gay remarks made during the off-season. Last year he was assessed a $50,000 penalty for an incident in the spring when he recklessly threw a chair in frustration that struck bystanders.
Mauer said the league’s referees need to know the NBA office is supportive of them. Fines and reprimands of players show that backing and without such actions referees will be upset.
There will be no inclination by the three officials who worked Monday’s game, or any other league referees, to have a vendetta against Edwards, Mauer said. “Do they carry a grudge? No. Referees, they remember but referees don’t do that (hold grudges).”
By remembering incidents with players or coaches, the potential is created to have future dialogues among all concerned. Referees and players can learn from what happened and be better prepared to handle similar incidents going forward.
Mauer said NBA officials are constantly evaluated. “They get graded for every call for every game.” A supervisor will let them know if they make a mistake.
Mauer’s NBA career ended after the 2021 playoffs. He was suspended without pay for the 2021-2022 season for refusing to be vaccinated for COVID. The league didn’t mandate that players be vaccinated but did so with referees. In a two-sentence letter from the league in September of 2022 he was terminated. Mauer’s convictions told him his treatment was wrong and he initiated litigation against the NBA that is ongoing. He has an appeal for legal funding help on his GiveSendGo web page.
Mauer doesn’t want it to sound like “sour grapes” but he believes the quality of officiating in the league may not be what it once was. “There’s referees that they’re hiring that have refereed only four or five years in their entire careers,” he said.
Mauer can recall an era when it was common for rookie NBA officials to have 10, 12 or more years of prior experience at other levels of basketball. A referee facing a challenging situation for the first time is in a different place than one who has seen those circumstances many times. The league decision makers have for a while now been expanding the number of referees and have prioritized gender hiring. The total number of officials entering this season was 74 and the league had an all-time high eight female referees going into the prior season.
Mauer said contrary to the view of fans and media, officials don’t play favorites with players, teams or venues. They don’t now, nor did they during his time, Mauer maintains.
“There were many times I didn’t even know the player that I was calling the foul on. …We don’t care. We just go and do our job.”
Mauer said coaches, players, fans and media know the Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns is a “whiner,” but that reputation doesn’t predispose officials to treat him unfairly. “Referees have guidelines they must follow. They follow (apply) for all the players.”
When Mauer worked in the NBA he talked with Towns and others who complain frequently about calls they don’t like. There’s no upside in that for players, Mauer said. He viewed Towns’ rants as immature behavior.
LeBron James and the Lakers don’t receive preferential treatment because he is one of the greatest players ever, or because his team is a flagship NBA franchise, per Mauer. He believes the league’s greatest players are probably more deserving of favorable calls because they make the difficult look easy despite having defenders hanging on them or hacking their arms.
Home court advantage in the NBA? Maybe so for various reasons like fan support spiking adrenaline in players but Mauer contends refs don’t intentionally favor home teams. Mauer said legendary NBA referee Earl Strom prided himself on a record that showed visiting teams won more often than home teams in games officiated.
Mauer said it was once pointed out during his career that the same was true of him. “I never kept track of things like that. I just go out and do my job.”