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NBA releases playoff pool of 36 refs

MIAMI (AP) It took all 1,230 regular-season games to decide which 16 teams were going to the NBA playoffs.

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Same goes for picking the 36 playoff-bound referees.

The NBA on Friday revealed the officials selected to work the opening round of the playoffs that start this weekend. The league got there with a process including everything from a study of analytics, ratings filed by teams and coaches, the assessments of retired veteran referees and much more.

''It's definitely a different world to be a part of those who are doing the deciding, instead of those that are being decided upon,'' said longtime referee Monty McCutchen, who left the floor this season to become an NBA vice president. ''And there's a certain growth pattern for me in that regard, having to learn new skill sets and new ways of sort of approaching it.''

The five active officials with the most playoff experience are all headed back to the postseason this year: Ron Garretson, Ken Mauer, Mike Callahan, Derrick Stafford and Scott Foster have combined to work nearly 1,000 playoff games.

There are three first-time referees selected in Kevin Cutler, Karl Lane and Kevin Scott. If form for rookie playoff refs holds, they'll do no more than a handful of games.

''Like in most professions you're given what you can handle at the time - well, you're not given it, you've earned this opportunity that we want you to experience,'' McCutchen said. ''I think it is important to point out someone getting in their first year not going to be working 14 of our playoff games. There's a developmental stage here that they have shown an excellence that warrants them being a part of this.''

Most of the 12 referees who worked last season's NBA Finals are back in this year's playoffs, the exceptions being McCutchen and Danny Crawford, both of whom have retired from officiating.

Courtney Kirkland, who was taken off the floor for a week this season after an incident with Golden State's Shaun Livingston , was selected for the postseason ref roster.

''Are they exhibiting the proper amounts of courage and strength without arrogance? Are they showing humility without weakness? Are they showing the proper amount of resoluteness and firmness to withstand crowd pressure?'' McCutchen said, listing some of the things that he and others consider when deciding who gets the playoff call. ''Those are important aspects to being an effective referee.''

The NBA has been stressing better relationships between referees and players for months, and teams do provide some of the feedback that goes into the evaluation process for choosing which officials make the playoffs.

That process used to determine the first-round pool remains in play, as the group gets pared down for subsequent playoff rounds.

''Each referee has a dashboard of thousands of decisions that they're rated on,'' McCutchen said. ''And that gives a very clear picture of where people are being successful.''

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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