Minnesota Timberwolves Rudy Gobert joined the ever-growing ranks of NBA players who’ve publicly criticized officials Wednesday. Friday, the league announced that he and Minnesota head coach Chris Finch will pay for their comments.
Finch and Gobert were fined $15,000 and $25,000 respectively, for “public criticism of the officiating,” according to a release from the NBA.
Gobert unleashed a tirade following Minnesota’s 107-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night where he claimed officials have tried to help the Timberwolves’ previous three opponents because they’re all playoff contenders.
“It’s bulls***. bulls***. It’s not fair. It’s really not fair,” Gobert said. “Every night. I’ve been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard for me to think they’re not trying to help them win tonight. It’s hard for me to think they didn’t try to help the Warriors win the other night or Sacramento Kings the other night. It’s just so obvious.
“… We work so hard to be in a position to compete with the best and we just get manipulated into those situations where it just impacts the game for the other team too much. They know how to do it. They do it a lot of different ways. Tonight was another way of doing it. But it’s all good. We understand that it’s also a business.
“… We understand that we’re not the biggest of the markets and we’re a team that — I think you want to see [Kevin Durant] in the playoffs, Steph [Curry] in the playoffs, you want to see LeBron [James] in the playoffs. Timberwolves are not there yet.”
It’s unclear if Gobert is referencing a specific instance over the past three games or the overarching issue of officiating, but he wasn’t the only member of his team to call out the referees. Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch also questioned why Gobert was called for multiple illegal screens while Suns players Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were allowed to be more physical.
“Chicken wing illegal screen by Ayton,” Finch said in regards to a late-game play, “and they give Booker the and-one on the floater with minimal contact, if at all. Then they call a bunch of illegal screens down on the other end. But weren’t illegal screens. They were physical plays. Durant leads with his elbow into Rudy’s face, which is something that happens all around the league right. Then, somehow, they tag Rudy for it.”
“We saw it on this road trip multiple times: Rudy’s hit to the face doesn’t get reviewed. Everyone else’s hit to the face seemingly gets reviewed. It’s something the league’s aware of.”
“The free throw disparity got us. I thought we were driving and playing with just as much force as they were.”
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch after the loss to the Phoenix Suns. #RaisedByWolves | #NBA pic.twitter.com/pJ1mOlQV9r
— Bally Sports North (@BallySportsNOR) March 30, 2023
NBA officiating criticism has been on the rise
Gobert’s and Finch’s comments are only the most recent in a trend this month and throughout the season.
In March alone, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was fined $30,000 for publicly calling out official Ben Taylor in a post-game news conference, Suns head coach Monty Williams was fined $20,000 for complaining about the number of free throws in a game and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić was fined $35,000 for making a “money” gesture at referees.
During the season so far, there have been two fines for criticism of officials, two fines for physical contact with an official, five fines for verbal or other non-physical offenses against an official and two fines for referee-related incidents. Last year, there were nine referee-related fines.