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Houston Rockets and NBA Referees: An Exhaustive Report

<strong>If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, stop reading this now.</strong>
If this doesn't bring a smile to your face, stop reading this now.

So at the end of last season, I undertook a task of epic proportions. So large, in fact, that I spent a whole two hours on it. I know, crazy. So here I am to present my findings and face the wrath of the masses.

I went back to last season and looked through every box score on At the bottom, there is a list of the three officials for each game. I went through all 82 Rockets games and compiled stats on each ref, including our record when each referees a game involving us. I also separated their records between games at the Toyota Center and on the road.

Now, if you believe Tim Donaghy at all, you'll probably find this stuff interesting. If you believe referees are totally impartial and are basically automatons on the court, then you obviously don't understand the human condition. It's impossible to prevent bias in the NBA.

Let's say I grew up in Wichita, Kansas (thanks Tom for the inspiration). I'm three hours from the closest NBA city (OKC). I probably grew up watching college ball (the Shockers and Jawhawks, probably) more than the NBA.

I'm going to keep this story going after the jump.

So I'm a simple Kansas boy. No NBA ties. And I become an NBA referee. I swear to be impartial and fair to everyone. Sure thing. But then, one of my favorite players growing up (Nick Collison) happens to be in the Western Conference Finals. Don't you think there's going to be bias? And even when I try hard not to be biased, I'll be biased.

Another story, then we'll get to good stuff. A few years back my brothers' soccer team had a game, but the ref didn't show up. I was home from college and the only person among the players' families who knew the rules of the game, so I was designated as referee. My first thought wasn't, "Awesome, I can totally help my brothers win this meaningless soccer game and make some 10-year-olds on the other team feel bad." It was, "I hope nothing bad happens so I don't have to call fouls for my brothers and get accused of being unfair." Needless to say, with that reactive attitude the game got away from me in a hurry, and though I did a decent job bringing it back (I called 11 fouls in the first five minutes of the second half), my brothers were pissed because I hadn't called any fouls for them. I had tried so hard not to look at them as my brothers that I screwed them over. Big time.

So in conclusion of this so-far ridiculous piece, refereeing is tough.

Some disclaimers/notes before you start commenting (starring Xiane's best friend, bullet points!):

  • I compiled these stats from the box scores on before the lockout. 
  • These stats are only from the 2010-2011 season. I was unable to get the stats from previous seasons before the lockout started and the NBA removed everything from their website. I didn't count the preseason.
  • Therefore, the sample size is small. I get that. No referee was assigned more than 7 times last season to the Rockets. There's nothing I can do about it. I will keep updating the list once the season starts, whenever that is.
  • Just because a ref was there for a Rockets win doesn't make them responsible for the win. Likewise, the Rockets could go 0-10 when Referee X is assigned but that doesn't necessarily make Referee X biased. The Rockets may have been playing a better team or other officials may have made the majority of the calls. Use common sense.
  • I plan to put the stats in the game previews or the game threads. The NBA doesn't release the names of officials on assignment until the day of the game. I usually write the previews the night before, so we'll see how that goes.

Without further ado, here we go.

-Violet Palmer is a terrible referee, but the Rockets were 3-0 when she reffed last year.

-Ken Mauer may have cost the Rockets a late-season game in Phoenix all by himself, but the team was a respectable 4-3 in games controlled by him.

-The Rockets were terrible when one of the "Big Three" (Joey Crawford, Bennett Salvatore, and Dick Bavetta) refereed a game last year. Their combined record with the Rockets was 3-8, and none refereed together. 

-Dan Crawford drew five Rockets road games last year. The Rockets lost all five.

-Eli Roe drew four Rockets road games last year. We lost all four of those, too.

-When Courtney Kirkland (3 games), Eric Lewis (2), JT Orr (1), Marat Kogut (2), Ron Garretson (2), Scott Foster (3), Tom Washington (4), Tony Brothers (4), or Palmer (3) officiated the Rockets, they never lost.

-The Rockets were winless when Salvatore (3 games), Derek Richardson (1), Kane Fitzgerald (3), Eli Roe (5!), Kevin Scott (1), and Mike Callahan (3) were the officials.

-Of refs who got the Rockets on the road more than 3 times, only Zach Zarba and Kevin Fehr (both 3-1) gave the team a winning record. The others were overwhelmingly below .500.

So what conclusions can we draw from this?

The Rockets need to stop playing on the road, obviously.

Seriously though, it's all circumstantial evidence. However, I don't want Eli Roe coming near the team ever again. If you are the game, take him out. And Jason Terry, while you're at it.

I don't want the Rockets to get much national attention, or Joey Crawford and his fellow goons will start drawing Rockets games, which is never good.

If Scott Foster, Tom Washington, and Tony Brothers draw a Rockets game together, bet on the good guys. Heavily.

Likewise, if Salvatore, Roe, and Dan Crawford are the guys, bet on the bad guys. Also heavily.

If Violet Palmer were a better referee, I would like watching games with her officiating even more. For now, I can console myself with the fact that at least she didn't cause the Rockets to lose last season.


I hope you guys liked this a little bit at least. It's not something to look at as hard evidence or anything like that. I just thought it was a fun thing to delve into. Remember to take all of this with a grain of salt.

And on a final note, this is my 150th post on The Dream Shake. Man, time flies. Thanks for reading.