The NBA Video Rulebook website is intended to help explain the Rules of the NBA game to all interested parties - our teams, the media, and our fans.At Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton shows, that during the last lockout, replacement refs were not demonstrably more likely to call fouls during the regular season:
Overall, the stats suggest that the replacement referees had only a limited impact on how the game was played 14 years ago. Now, contemporary accounts certainly suggest that there were issues with the replacements outside the box score, particularly in their ability to manage the physical nature of the NBA game. However, they were also in a different situation. For example, during most of the replacement period teams of two referees were working games as opposed to the standard crew of three that has been maintained this time because the league has a deeper pool of available replacements.The refusal of the three officials to communicate with Larry Brown while ejecting him from the game Monday night reflected poorly on them and/or the instructions they've been given but I'm withholding judgment about the replacement refs on the issue of the number of fouls they call until the games start to count.
Certainly, the league will suffer with second-tier officials calling games instead of the ones we are so often told by the league are the best in the world. (I don't disagree.) The sooner the regular refs get back to work, the better for everyone involved. Still, this look back to 1995-96 offers some hope that the prodigious foul totals we have seen so far during the postseason may not continue when the games count. For everyone who prefers basketball to free throw contests, that's a good thing.