NEW YORK - Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert says NBA referees try to help teams with star players defeat teams from smaller markets with unfair foul calls.
The 30-year-old French 7-footer (2.16m) launched his tirade after the T-Wolves lost 107-100 to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, the Star Tribune newspaper and The Athletic reported.
"It's really not fair," Gobert said of officiating calls, which sent Phoenix to the free throw line 27 times to only 12 for Minnesota.
"I've been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it's hard for me to think (referees) are not trying to help (the Suns) win tonight. It's hard for me to think they didn't try to help the (reigning champion Golden State) Warriors win the other night or the Sacramento Kings the other night."
Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and last season's top NBA rebounder, played nine seasons for the Utah Jazz before joining the Timberwolves this season.
"It's just so obvious. As a basketball player that's been in this league for so long, it's disrespectful, and it sucks, to be honest," Gobert added.
"We work so hard to be in a position to compete with the best and we just get manipulated into those situations where it just impacts the game for the other team too much. They know how to do it. They do it a lot of different ways. Tonight was another way of doing it."
Gobert, who was whistled for five fouls, and the T-Wolves fell to 39-38, one game behind Golden State for the last guaranteed playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Minnesota slipped into the group of teams set for a play-in series to reach the playoffs, with Gobert implying referees were helping to boost playoff bids for teams with stars like Phoenix's Kevin Durant, Golden State's Stephen Curry and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who are just behind Minnesota in the Western Conference.
"We understand that it's also a business," Gobert said. "Unfortunately. It's sad, but it's good also. It's really good. But it's true. We understand that we're not the biggest of the markets.
"I think you want to see (Durant) in the playoffs, Steph in the playoffs, you want to see LeBron in the playoffs. The Timberwolves are not there yet. We got to keep putting our head down, keep playing through that, and it's frustrating for sure, especially for me."
The T-Wolves play host to James and the Lakers on Friday in a crucial games for the playoff chances of both clubs. The Lakers lead the NBA in free throw attempts per game with 26.7, three more on average than Minnesota.
Last week, the NBA fined Phoenix coach Monty Williams $20,000 for complaining about officiating in a loss to the Lakers during which Los Angeles shot 46 free throws to only 20 for the Suns.