Referee Who Ejected Duncan Is Suspended

Just days before the start of the playoffs, the N.B.A.

indefinitely suspended one of its top referees, Joey Crawford, for

inappropriate behavior during Sunday's San Antonio-Dallas game.

Tim Duncan, who had been whistled earlier for a technical foul,

was ejected by Crawford late in the third quarter for laughing from

the bench after his teammate Fabricio Oberto was called for a foul.

Duncan left the court and muttered an obscenity at Crawford, and

yesterday the N.B.A. fined Duncan $25,000 for doing that.

''Joey Crawford's handling of this situation failed to meet the

standards of professionalism and game management we expect of

N.B.A. referees,'' Commissioner David Stern said yesterday in a

statement. ''Especially in light of similar prior acts by this

official, a significant suspension is warranted. Although Joey is

consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held

accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further

discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands

his responsibilities.''

After the Spurs' 91-86 loss, Duncan told reporters that he

believed Crawford had a vendetta against him.

''Before he gave me the two technical fouls, he made a call and

I was shaking my head, and he walks down and stares at me,'' Duncan

told The San Antonio News-Express. ''He says, 'Do you want to

fight? Do you want to fight?' I didn't say anything to him there,


Crawford was interviewed by a pool reporter after the game and

said that Duncan had been ''complaining the whole time.''

''And then he went over to the bench and he was over there doing

the same stuff behind our back,'' Crawford added. ''I hit him with

one and he kept going over there, laughing, and I look over there

and he's still complaining. So I threw him out.''

In an interview yesterday on the ESPN program ''Pardon the

Interruption,'' Stern dismissed the notion of a vendetta and said

Crawford did not show remorse when they spoke Monday. Stern also

indicated that Crawford might not want to come back next


''He doesn't think he did anything wrong,'' Stern said.

''Probably, he doesn't wish to work in the N.B.A. anymore. It's our

plan to talk about the future.''

Crawford, in his 31st season as an N.B.A. referee, has been a

fixture, having officiated more playoff games (266) and more N.B.A.

finals games (38) than any other active referee.

Stern was upset that Crawford had not heeded his admonition from

an incident in 2003. Crawford was called into league offices to

discuss how he gave four technical fouls to the Dallas Mavericks in

Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with the Spurs. He had

ejected Don Nelson, who was the Mavericks' coach at the time, for

standing by the scorer's table in apparent frustration, and later

ejected Del Harris, the Mavericks' assistant coach.

Stern considered Crawford's behavior grandstanding and warned

him that he would not tolerate another such incident. Crawford

returned to referee two N.B.A. finals games that year between the

Spurs and the Nets.

''He's been specifically asked by me to change his conduct and

he wasn't able to do it,'' Stern said on ESPN. The suspension,

Stern said, was a result of ''our earlier interaction where Joey

knows our views on, shall I say, his loss of control; you just

can't keep doing that.''

Messages left at the National Basketball Referees Association to

reach Crawford were not returned yesterday. Lamell McMorris, a

spokesman for the association, declined to comment. Duncan and

Spurs officials declined to comment.

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball

Players Association, has been critical of the league for giving

referees powers to discipline players' behavior.

''In my view, Joey Crawford clearly went over the line in this

instance and some level of discipline was warranted,'' Hunter said

yesterday in a statement. ''At the same time, I think part of the

problem lies with the new rules regarding technical fouls and the

lack of consistency with which those rules have been applied.''

Crawford was not the first referee the N.B.A. suspended this


Rodney Mott, in his ninth season, was suspended for three games

without pay in January for directing an obscene gesture toward a

fan and using inappropriate language in a game in Portland.

Crawford, with his bald pate and expressive face, is one of the

more conspicuous referees in the game. He is known for his

emotional style and comes from a lineage of high-profile officials.

His brother, Jerry, is an umpire for Major League Baseball. His

father, Shag, was also a major league umpire.

Yesterday, Stern did not consider Crawford's pedigree, but

rather how his behavior affected the image of the league.

The Spurs' Tim Duncan, left, after he was

assessed a technical foul while seated on the bench Sunday. He said

Joey Crawford challenged him to a fight earlier in the game.