Foster, a 25-year NBA veteran, has not worked a Rockets game since James Harden publicly criticized him after the superstar fouled out of Houston's Feb. 21 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Harden, who was fined $25,000 by the NBA the next day, declared then that Foster should not be assigned any more Rockets games because of his personal issues with them.
"It's lingering, and it's something that has to be looked at for sure," said Harden, who described Foster as "just rude and arrogant" when interacting with players. "For sure, it's personal. For sure. I don't think he should be able to even officiate our games anymore, honestly."
- Rockets lose to Golden State Warriors 104 - 100 in Game 1 of the series
- Rockets' Paul fined $35K for 'aggressively confronting' official
The NBA assigns officials for the first four games of a series before the series begins, but does not announce which officials are working until the morning of each game.
There was already an intense focus on officiating in the Rockets-Warriors series, due primarily to Houston's complaints about missed foul calls on several Harden 3-point attempts during Golden State's 104-100 win in Game 1.
As Harden mentioned in February, Foster officiated two of the Rockets' losses to the Warriors in last season's West finals. That includes a 101-92 loss in Game 7, the subject of a report by the Rockets later sent to the league office and obtained by ESPN that argues that incorrect calls and no-calls cost the Rockets an estimated 18.6 points.
Foster also officiated the Rockets' lone loss to the Utah Jazz in last season's West semifinals.
Harden isn't the only Rockets star who has gone public regarding his problems with Foster. Chris Paul mockingly referred to Foster as "the man" and "who they pay to see" after being called for a technical foul by him in a January 2018 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Paul also complained then about Foster's unwillingness to communicate with players. The league office did not announce a fine for those comments.
Paul, who also fouled out of the Feb. 21 loss to the Lakers and was assessed a technical foul by Foster for arguing a call with 33 seconds remaining in the game, said then that he had met with the league regarding his issues with the referee.
"I don't know what else to do," Paul said.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Foster issued 18 fouls (personal or technical) in the Feb. 21 game -- 12 against the Rockets and six against the Lakers. Seven of the fouls against the Rockets, who blew a 19-point lead in the second half, occurred in the fourth quarter. Houston did not attempt a free throw in the final 20 minutes of the game, compared to 17 free throws for the Lakers during that span.