by Marcel Mutoni

Officiating is one of the few things that NBA fans can agree on universally: It is, for the most part, quite awful. And guess what? Things aren’t looking up; in fact, they could potentially get a lot worse. Awesome!

According to ESPN, the League and its zebras are nowhere near a contract agreement, which means there’s a slight chance that scabs could be used next season to police the games.

The issue, as always, is money. According to the report, the NBA is trying to cut into the refs’ budget rather significantly, and shockingly, they have a problem with that. The nerve of these guys:

The NBA’s current contract with its 60-odd referees runs out next week and the sides appear to be far apart on a new deal, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations. Sept. 1 is the expiration date of the current five-year pact. One source told ESPN.com on Tuesday that — with the league proposing an across-the-board reduction to the referee budget of an estimated 10 percent — the impasse might not be resolved before the start the 2009-10 season.

As of “right now,” according to the source, existing NBA referees “will not be working preseason [or the] regular season.” The proposed cuts to the referee budget are believed to include reductions in travel costs, pension payouts and health benefits in addition to salary cuts.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the refs are willing to stand firm against the League in this wretched economy. But just in case they are, best to prepare yourselves to see the phrase “I could officiate games better than these guys!” come to life in a few months.