Thursday, June 12, 2008

Closing the Book on Game 6

I think this is going to be the last post on the whole NBA/Game 6/Donaghy imbroglio, absent any new, stunning relevation about the Kings' Gatorade having been spiked during the series, or something like that. But there's still some good stuff out there today:

- Marcos Breton column, Sacramento Bee:

Stern can pretend all he wants that his ref problems are relegated to Donaghy, the busted gambler and point shaver. But the larger issue is that NBA fans believe NBA refs could be crooked because they are so bad – because they have affected too many outcomes since.

Fix that if you can, Mr. Stern. But you can't re-create a championship parade down J Street that never happened. You can't retrieve years the Kings wasted while vainly chasing that stolen title dream long after their window had slammed shut.

Conspiracy or not, it is undeniable that the refs adversely affected the outcome of the '02 series. Yes, they blew calls that benefited the Kings, too. But they blew an entire game – Game 6 – which didn't.

- Ailene Voisin column, Sacramento Bee:

Stern has other pressing matters on his agenda, among them the arena mess in Seattle/Oklahoma City, political concerns pertaining to the Olympics in Beijing, small-market owners grumbling about an ailing business model and pleading for revenue-sharing relief and, closer to home, another attempt to preserve a franchise and build a facility at Cal Expo. (It should be noted that his personal involvement in Sacramento's arena plans speak to his appreciation for a region and an organization that he has labeled a "model".)

But this is a state of emergency, the damaging Donaghy incident trumping all others. The highly regarded commissioner should take a closer look at those Game 6 videos, perhaps establish an impartial panel of ex-coaches to critique it possession by possession. And as Phil Jackson suggested late Tuesday night, it might not be a bad idea to enlist the services of an autonomous governing body to supervise league officials.

"I think these guys (referees) have an impossible job," offered Jackson, who was victimized by one famously brutal last-second call while coaching the Chicago Bulls. "Judgment calls on many, many situations in the course of a game … I think that influence, opinion, all the things go into making us human lemmings, which we are."

"There are even teams posting basic Web sites that kind of critique the referees from game to game. I think that has put a lot of pressure on the quality of the job that's getting done."

Still awaiting word from Stern.

- Eric Bailey story, Los Angeles Times:

Bill DeBlonk, a real estate agent and 23-year season ticket holder, has every turn in that series etched in his memory.Robert Horry's ice-water arteries in Game 4, hitting the game-winner at the buzzer. The Kings leading 3-2 heading into Game 6 but seemingly never having a chance. Shaquille O'Neal plowing like a semi-truck past Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard before the two Kings' centers fouled out. Kobe Bryant smashing Mike Bibby in the final seconds, bloodying Bibby's nose but not getting called for a foul.

"What can you say about it -- it was a debacle, it was ridiculous," DeBlonk said. "To hang on and still be bitter about it isn't worth the negative energy."

But, he added, "You know deep down in your heart that the next time it comes around and we're playing the Lakers with a championship on the line, we've got to lead by 20 to win by five."

Even without corroborating evidence, the allegations offer Sacramento's devout fans a vintage opportunity to grumble anew, this time in a national spotlight.

"There's no smoking gun. We'll never really know," said Rick Elliott, a season-ticket holder for 22 years. "It might not have been fixed, but it was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen."

And now," he added, "everyone in Sacramento can say, 'Hey, I told you so.' "

- Phil Taylor column, Sports Illustrated:

Stern can't be laughing now. Even if Donaghy's claims aren't true, league executives have to recognize that the NBA has given fans reason to believe that his claims are, partly because of the league's cavalier attitude toward the inconsistencies in the way games are called. Players, coaches, media and fans have all questioned NBA officiating at one time or another, and the league would be wise to finally take those questions seriously.

A good place to start would be with making the process more transparent, including having referees give more interviews to explain controversial calls. The league office should also publicly instruct the referees that they are to call the game without giving special treatment to stars, and without considering the time or score. No more swallowing the whistles at the end of close games. There's not much Stern and his associates can do to change what happened in the past, but they can address the future.

Stern can shout from the top of the Manhattan skyscraper that houses the league's headquarters that none of Donaghy's allegations are true, but the real problem for the NBA is that hardly anyone would be surprised if they were.

And once Stern solves this, he can begin working on the main problem facing the NBA today - the fact that no one, not even the best teams, can remember how to play an exciting transition offense.

1 comment:

michele said...

I used to tell Todd every time he talked about this (quite often in the years I've known him) to let it go. But after this story broke yesterday - my blood boiled for all Kings fans, and now I know why none of them have ever let it go.