Game 6 and all the talk about nearly everything BUT Game 6
It's a sad state of NBA affairs when, on the eve of the a potentially series closing Game 6 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets, all the chatter is devoted not towards Kobe Bryant. Or Carmelo Anthony. Or Pau Gasol. Or Chauncey Billups. Hell not even Sonny Weems.
Instead, the biggest names in question may be Mike Callahan and Mark Wunderlich. Neither rings a bell? Okay. I'll throw you one more. Joey Crawford. That oughta do it.
Happy, happy, joy, joy.
I realize referee complaints are as entrenched a part of playoff culture as the TNT gang (recently taken to task task by Ron Ron), ads making use of the word "Amazing," and marathon articles by ESPN's Bill Simmons. But when the Sports Guy's latest happens to be a dissertation about everything gone wrong with whose manning the whistles, that ain't a good thing. And Simmons ain't the only one voicing dissatisfaction. The staggering amount of flagrants and technicals assessed is being described as absurd, and that skepticism is granted validity when they're rescinded on a regular basis. Even former official Hue Hollins is throwing the current crop under the bus, and this comes from a dude associated with a call still resonating of sketchiness fifteen years later!
Thus, it's no shocker to see the Lakers and Nuggets series mired in such anti-gruntled yap. Specifically, an unnamed Nuggets player insinuating the 50K coughed up by Phil Jackson and the Laker organization wasn't so much a fine for criticizing the Game 4 referees, but rather a calculated investment to pressure favor in Game 5. The irony, of course, being that George Karl then turned around and bitched about the refs, but simply utilized enough restraint to avoid getting hit with a bill. Should the Nuggets end up on the right side of the charity stripe this evening, Karl's dad leaves himself open towards accusations of being the "bargain shopper" version of Phil Jackson. The complainer who shops at Costco, if you will.
The worst part of all this? This storyline isn't overblown. The refereeing truly has been as amateurish as advertised. Against both teams. And during the Eastern Conference Playoffs as well. What bothers me the most isn't so much the blown calls- Lame as it can be to hear, these guys are human- but the seemingly small interest expressed by the league to correct the problem. Outwardly, there appears to be more concern about making sure "emotions don't boil over"- Seriously, Mr. Stern, seek whatever therapy or counseling is needed, because it's REALLY about time your paralyzing fear from the now-five-years-old-Palace Brawl was overcome- and creating the appearance of fairness than cutting down on referee assignments that smack of "conflict of interest," making better use of instant replay or adding more officials to the mix. Doing something. Anything.
Most of the Lakers Blog faithful aren't big on The Sport's Guy, and while I think they allow his inherent (and totally owned) Boston-bred dislike for the Lakers taint appreciation of what's often very insightful and funny writing, we are entitled to ones own taste for whatever reason. But even the Simmons haters can agree with him that two classic Conference Finals are being overshadowed by referee flailing, and that really does stink. It's also hurting the league's "image" way more than whatever hypothetical punch could (but probably won't) get thrown during a game of heighten stakes involving players that aren't robots.
Anyhoo, for those still interested in tidbits involving the game...
- When not busy hijacking the K Brothers' podkast microphones, 710 ESPN's Steve Mason maintains the "Smog" blog, his latest entry examining the quixotic career of Lamar Odom.
- Derekfisher2.com lined up an interview with Derek Fisher. They must know somebody. (Click on the "5.28.09" tab.
- A pair of nice pieces (from the L.A. Daily News and the New York Times) about Chris Andersen's career resuscitation. Y'all may hate the Birdman during this series, but his is truly a great story.
- Dennis Rodman's personal life hits rock bottom. As for his Reality TV cache, depends whether you have more respect for Drew Pinsky or "The Donald."