James Jones backs coach on officiating criticism: Suns ‘just don’t get the calls’

Mar 16, 2023, 9:49 AM
President of basketball ops and GM James Jones at the introductory press conference for new Suns fo...
President of basketball ops and GM James Jones at the introductory press conference for new Suns forward Kevin Durant on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)
(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams immediately used a Tuesday loss to the Milwaukee Bucks to publicly decry how his team is officiated, and his boss has his back.

James Jones, the Suns president of basketball operations and GM, told Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that Phoenix doesn’t get the benefit of the referee’s whistle that opponents do.

His comments came a day after the Bucks took 37 free throws to 16 for the Suns.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo went to the stripe 24 times himself, shouldering Phoenix center Deandre Ayton into foul trouble, hitting a retreating and square Torrey Craig in the chest to earn another call and later knocking out — at least part of — Craig’s tooth.

“It’s self-evident, man. We look at it,” Jones said on Arizona Sports. “We know certain players get certain treatment. I think that’s always been the case in this league. The human element comes into play. I think everyone sees that, as much as Devin (Booker) attacks the paint, as much as our guys attack, we draw a lot of contact.

“We just don’t get the calls. But we can’t blow the whistle for the referees. … It’s just unfortunate that it’s something that always goes against us. That’s no excuse. We know what we have to deal with, we know what we have to overcome. It’s on us to figure it out because we’re not going to get help from anywhere else.”

To Jones’ and Williams’ points, the Suns indeed are at the poor end of the whistles by the numbers.

Phoenix is fourth-worst in free throws per field goal attempts in the NBA (.190) and are the worst of 30 teams by giving up the most free throws per field goal attempts (.234).

This isn’t the first time Phoenix has complained about the large gap in free-throw attempts compared to their opponents.

In Game 4 of last year’s first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Suns gave up 42 foul shots to taking 15 attempts themselves, leading to Williams getting fined for a complaint.

Williams likewise began his postgame press conference Tuesday by pointing out that Booker, who got up 27 shot attempts, only went to the foul stripe three times against Milwaukee’s physical defense.

That came despite Booker posting the highest shot volume he’s tallied in all but two of the 42 games played this year.

“I could sit here and go through what all of your guys already know. You just got to put my name on the quote,” Williams told reporters Tuesday night. “You saw it. It’s just, it’s not fair. Book had three free throws I think, if I’m reading this right.

“Yeah, he’s got three free throws and Jrue Holiday is one of the most physical defenders in the game. He has three. Giannis has 24 free throws. It’s ridiculous. There’s no other way to put it. Our guys are fighting — DA can’t play when a guy just runs into you the whole game. We’ve dealt with this so many times with this team, and credit to (Antetokounmpo), he saw the way the game was being called. He kept doing it. That’s hard to swallow.”

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