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Nuggets players, coaches meet with NBA heads of officiating

Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — NBA senior vice president of referee training and development Monty McCutchen, head of referee operations Michelle Johnson and their staffs met with Nuggets players and coaches Tuesday morning at Pepsi Center to discuss rules interpretations, on-court conduct and the expectations of NBA referees.

The meeting laid the groundwork for the planned summit at All-Star weekend where unions representing both sides will meet to address the mounting tensions between players and referees that has resulted in a high volume of both technical fouls and ejections this season. McCutchen and Johnson are meeting with all 30 teams as part one of the league’s five-pronged initiative designed to address the on-court working relationship between NBA players and referees.

At All-Star weekend, players and referees will address “furthering communication and transparency — two tenets of growing importance in a league with more exposure and attention than perhaps any other in the world,” according to the league.

“I think it’s good just to have some communication with them,” said Nikola Jokic after Tuesday’s meeting. “They said to us that they’re going to change the way how they communicate with us and how they see things. We are making mistakes in the game, they’re making mistakes, of course, when they’re refereeing. I think that’s a good move by them. We are in the business, they are just part of the business like we are so we need to be together in this.”

The meeting was described as a question and answer-type environment between Nuggets players, coaches and the referees. The topics of discussion weren’t particular to the Nuggets and more of general conversation about officiating and player-referee relations.

“I think it was good for us and good for them,” Jokic said while adding that Nuggets coach Michael Malone asked the most questions.

Jokic has been ejected from two games this season — the Nuggets’ 127-109 loss to the Lakers on Nov. 19 and Denver’s 107-83 win over the Jazz on Dec. 26. His ejection in Los Angeles was later rescinded by the league.

The 22-year-old recently pledged to tone down his on-court interactions with referees.

“I just decided not to talk with the referees and don’t express my emotions just not to them,” Jokic said. “I can scream, whatever, but not to them because it’s a bad look. The referees are not going to change their decision so it just makes me look bad and makes my team look bad so I’m not going to do that anymore. I mean, of course, maybe it’s going to happen in the future because it’s an emotional game of course, but it’s going to be less and less.”