I'm not just glad that the Celtics beat the Pistons because I'm a Celtics fan. I'm glad the Celtics beat the Pistons because it allows me to complain about officiating without being accused of Boston homerism, as I was when I complained that the Celtics/Hawks series shouldn't have gone seven games
Win or lose, I am genuinely dumbfounded by the state of NBA officiating. Apparently, the NBA is dumbounded as well - the league is so confident that NBA officials can't make calls on their own that they will institute fines for flopping
. Now, sure, I suppose I'm pleased that action is being taken, but think about it - if the league had any confidence in its officials, wouldn't they simply instruct officials to punish flopping? Instead, they have chosen to outright circumvent their incompetent referees and defer to "in-game observers at the arenas and video reviewers" to assess this theatrical baffoonery.
We're not talking about fighting, where league officials need to review tape to determine how to punish a player for something done outside the bounds of the game itself...this is, in fact, the game itself
. If players are flopping, and those flops are determining the outcomes of games, shouldn't officials be competent enough to call a flop on the spot? If they can't, then fire them and find officials who can.
What I'm most frustrated about is this - here we are on the verge of a potentially historically great NBA finals, and my enjoyment may be sidetracked by referees screwing it up. Hell, even in Game 6 of Celts/Pistons, when Rasheed Wallace went to the bench for a phantom foul on Kevin Garnett (after which he tossed the towel at the camera), I was actually feeling for him
. I hate Rasheed Wallace - don't like him one bit - and yet I felt his pain
. And if you watched close, you could see it in the eyes of every critical player on the court and on the bench - they were completely dumbfounded by the calls being made. This expression has become far, far too common in this league - and is no longer attributable just to players who "whine" and "cheat."
Get used to seeing that confused expression in these finals - beyond just an inability to distinguish flops from fouls and acting from reality, NBA officials now get to deal with the most polarizing and seductively theatrical player - Kobe Bryant - on the biggest stage. In a June Sports Illustrated article, a teammate says Kobe considers himself "an expert at fouling without getting called for it." Kobe is also arguably the premier expert at getting fouls called against defenders as well.
Quotes like these about Kobe would not be so disturbing were the state of officiating in the NBA not so poor. Kobe will do his act, and Pierce will do his best to mimick it. Refs will be easily lulled into thinking they've seen fouls they didn't see - and phantom calls will go both ways.
So will the NBA Finals be determined by which team puts on a better show? Is it really just about acting? I certainly hope not, because that will only add to my resentment if the Celtics lose, and it will, in my estimation, detract from their victory if they win.
"And heretofore shall I be acting as I approacheth the rim and 'taketh it to the hole.' And so shall Mister Pierce doeth what he can to followeth in my footsteps. And so shall flopping be the order of the day until such time as the league taketh my money for it. And so shall I decree that these tights are sheer and form-fitting and comfy, and thusly I will wear one upon my shooting arm whilst I play."
For the most part, I do feel the best teams manage to rise to the top in spite of the officiating we've seen in recent years, but should any team have to win "in spite of" officiating?
This 2008 NBA finals could be among the greatest: Lakers / Celtics in a renewal of a historic rivalry, with Phil Jackson poised to pass Red Auerbach in Champtionship rings, with only Red's team standing in his way. Let's hope for a great, fairly contested, and well refereed finals. And if the zebras ruin the sanctity of this contest, and take the sheen off of the winning team's victory, whether it be the Celtics ot the Lakers? Fire the lot of them and start again.
Ok, I'm done bitching. And I'm genuinely excited to see this finals, like so many other people are. Remember how that after-hours Rocky and Apollo fight turned into a painting at the end of Rocky III? The Lakers and Celtics have been similarly frozen, waiting 20 years for the next round...
LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE.
Labels: Boston Celtics, Lakers, NBA Finals, officiating