Basketball: Referees are cock-a-hoop

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The Independent Online
After being locked out for more than two months, the National Basketball Association's regular referees may be officiating games as soon as Monday. Although their new agreement with the league has yet to be completed, the referees will be undergoing physical tests and a brief refresher course on the rules this week.

By the narrowest of margins, 27-26, the referees voted on Monday to accept a contract offer from the league that was, however, less lucrative than what they had wanted. Gone will be the replacement officials, most of whom came from the Continental Basketball Association. Most players are pleased.

"Even though we beat ourselves, the refereeing was horrendous," the Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning said after Monday night's Miami-Boston game, in which a fight broke out between the Celtics' Pervis Ellison and Kurt Thomas, a Heat rookie. "They shouldn't be able to call a high school game. It's sickening what they do. They blew the whistle too much, I thought there was an echo in the building. At one point I was scared to touch anyone."

Under the five-year agreement, first-year referees would make $75,000 (pounds 50,000) this year and $99,000 in the final year of the deal, not including money for play-offs. Veteran officials would be paid $211,000 this year and $278,000 in the final year.

The league has claimed the rises would make NBA officials the highest paid in sport, but the referees said they would not.

The San Antonio Spurs signed All-Star center David Robinson to a new contract that will keep him with them the rest of his career.

"The Spurs and David Robinson have come to an agreement on a multi-year contract - a new multi-year contract - that allows David Robinson to be a Spur for life," the Spurs' general manager, Gregg Popovich, said. He would not reveal terms of the agreements, but he did confirm that as long as Robinson played in the NBA it would be for the Spurs.

Robinson, 30, in his seventh NBA season, last year was the league's Most Valuable Player Award winner.

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