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Clippers' Chris Paul cites 'bad call' for comment, not official's gender

Clippers' Chris Paul, criticized for comments about official some found sexist, says it 'was about a bad call'

Chris Paul rarely talks before games and didn't venture far from his routine Friday even while addressing comments he made the day before about referee Lauren Holtkamp that were construed by some to be sexist.

"You know, last night was about a bad call, that's all," Paul said.

The Clippers All-Star point guard repeated slight variations of his response two more times when reporters gathered around his locker inside the Air Canada Centre and asked about his criticism of a female referee.

Holtkamp had called a technical foul on Paul early in the third quarter of the Clippers' 105-94 loss to Cleveland on Thursday after his team tried to quickly inbound the ball following a Cavaliers free throw.

"We're trying to get the ball out fast every time down the court and when we did that she said, 'Uh-uh,' and I said, 'Why uh-uh?' and she gave me a tech and that's ridiculous," Paul said Thursday. "If that's the case, then this might not be for her."

Paul's implication that a female referee may not be qualified to work in the NBA drew a rebuke from the National Basketball Referees Assn., which wrote on its Twitter account it "deplores the personal and unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul."

The referees union also tweeted it had reviewed the calls made by Holtkamp, which included a contested technical foul against Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, and "deems them fully justified."

Holtkamp is a rookie and the third female referee to work in the NBA after Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer. Kantner is now the WNBA's supervisor of officials while Palmer remains an active NBA referee.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers supported Paul while acknowledging his player could have limited his comments to the technical.

"I didn't like that part of it," Rivers said, "but I didn't think he meant it in the way it's being said. I just think he was upset at the technical.

"I don't think the technical was warranted either, to be honest, but that's not a gender issue. That's an issue that you disagree with the tech and probably should have been left that way, but knowing Chris, I think that's what he meant more. I don't think he meant that it was a gender issue at all."

Paul also received backing from Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Assn., and San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.

Roberts said in a statement that any insinuation Paul would be disrespectful toward women was "utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false." Hammon tweeted that Paul had an opinion and "I don't think it had anything to do with the refs gender."

The Clippers were called for five technical fouls against the Cavaliers and one more against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, giving them a league-high 58 59. Small forward Matt Barnes was ejected Thursday after his two technicals gave him 11 for the season and moved him into a tie with Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook for the most in the NBA.

"That's too many," Rivers said. "You're not going to win in that. Matt has a reputation and he's probably had three or four reputation techs, as we know. But when Matt complains about it, he knows what I say, you earned it. You earn reputations most of the time. Sometimes because of that you get things that are unfair, and I think that does happen to Matt."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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