Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Referees Decide Finish By Not Deciding Finish

Clearly the play at the end of the Lakers-Spurs game was a foul. But it is basketball tradition that that foul won't be called in that situation. The thinking here is that you don't want the refs to decide the game. This thinking is flawed because by not calling a clear violation, didn't they decide the game?

Wouldn't it have been Derek Fisher who helped decide the game by biting on a pump fake and jumping into the ball handler/shooter? Wouldn't it have been Brent Barry who decided the game by drawing the foul and then having to knock down the free throws? Wouldn't it have been a Laker who decided the game when they got the ball back after the potentially made free throws?

If a guy jumps up and lands on another it is a foul. Should an umpire not call a third strike if a batter doesn't swing in the ninth inning because he wants to make sure the players decide the finish? Should a referee not throw a flag on a clip on an overtime kick return? Should a hockey referee allow a last second, game-winning goal that is thrown in? The rules are the rules. There should be no superstar rules, no playoff rules, and no last-second rules.

I thought that almost everyone handled this no-call well however. Greg Popovich said that it was not a foul and that he is not upset with the officials. Barry said that you can't call that there and took the blame himself. Phil Jackson quoted 3rd century Taoist philosophy or something but I think his point was that it probably was a foul and that he is glad his team was the beneficiary of the no-call (but that plays like this happen throughout the game and we're only talking about it because it was the last one). The consensus was that it should have been called but was not and in that situation, one cannot fault the refs. The Spurs had 47 minutes at 57 seconds before that to make one more shot and have that play not matter.

Then there was Kobe Bryant. Craig Sager, staring off into space rather than at his interview subject, asked Kobe about the play and with his adorable little smirk he said and repeated, "that wasn't a foul," as though His Eminence knew something that all the rest of us didn't (even though we'd seen the play in slo-mo from four angles at this point). He is a bad loser (remember his "there is no way I will play for the Lakers next year - I'd rather play on Pluto" comment or his famous quitting-job in game 7 against the Suns?) And he is a bad winner as this episode shows. I usually don't wish injury on anyone but...well I don't think I have to finish this sentence.

And seriously, what the hell is with Craig Sager's suits? Is it that he has given up on being an intelligent person known for his interesting and insightful interview questions and instead just wants to be remembered for anything at all? The way the guy stares off into space when he is doing interviews and the way he dresses makes me think that he may actually be blind and whoever dresses him hates him.

Finally, can we now move on from the idea that Sasha Vujacic is a great defender and has shut down Manu Ginobili? In three games Ginobili has stunk, but he went nuts in the other one. Vujacic guarded him in all four. If you do a test four times in the same beaker and get different results each time, it wasn't the beaker causing the change! If you still believe that Vujacic is a great defender and not just another annoying, flopping, soft, European whiner, you need look no further than his "defense" of Tony Parker on a fast break with about 3:30 to go in the third quarter of game 4.

He backpedaled into the lane as Parker came at him. Then Vujacic stopped and tried to set his feet to draw a charge. He prepared for the contact and then just flew backwards onto his butt when he expected Parker to be there. It looked like Parker had pulled a Frodo and vanished right in front of Vujacic's eyes. I watched it like 10 times. Parker had faked him out so bad that Vujacic flopped despite Parker not being within 5 feet of him. Classic. I found it on another site so click here to watch (sorry if they take it down).

Today is a pretty big sports day with the Pistons going back to Boston for the all-important game 5. This one will decide the series. And the Red Wings go to Pittsburgh for the Stanley Cup game 3. If Detroit wins, that series is over of course as well. And the US is in London playing England in soccer which doesn't matter for a number of reasons (it is soccer, it is not in a tournament or qualifier), but it would still be nice to beat England's butt again. We could get Thierry Henry come and play for us and it would be just like the Revolutionary War.

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