Friday, June 07, 2002

Stephen A. Smith says Kobe wants people to stop comparing him to MJ. "Basically, I'd appreciate it if people just looked at me as Kobe." Well Kobe, maybe they could do that if they didn't see you imitate nearly every one of Jordan's mannerisms every time they turned around. And what was up with drinking Sprite during your interviews after Game 7? Talk about shameless plugs. What professional athlete replenishes bodily fluids after an exhausting game by drinking a carbonated beverage? Obey your thirst? If you're Kobe, it's obey who's padding your wallet... Sam Donnellon gives his take on the "Travis LEEVE" sign that was taken down by Phillie's officials earlier this week. He said that such actions were overboard, and could upset "the six Phillies fans in the stands each night." He also mentioned how 'Jason Kidd compared Shaq to Wilt the other day' and that "must have left the Dipper bellowing in the heavens. Here's a subtle difference: In his day, Wilt was called for fouls because he breathed on people. Shaq drives elbows into the mouths of his foes, then saunters to the foul line." Sad, but true. Phil Jasner says that "Samaki Walker suggests changing the 3 seconds-in-the-lane rule to 2 seconds... Or widening the painted area of the court" in order to stop Shaq. Well, the officials hardly ever call 3 seconds on him now with the current rule (at either end of the court), so why would that change anything?

Referring to Ralph Nader's weighing in on bad officiating, Ed Barkowitz says "what the NBA really needs is fewer salutary contributions from whining fans." This coming from a man who gets to watch such events without paying a dime. Perhaps if he shelled out thousands of dollars, as season ticket holders do every year, he would have a different opinion. Perhaps "whining" isn't appropriate. After all, taking your money elsewhere is sure to sound a louder message anyway... Peter Vecsey had this interesting comment: "Think Thorn, the former supervisor of officials, may be muttering under his breath about referees he should've fired when he had the chance? You don't think Mark Cuban may be on to something, do you? Naaaa!!!" Phil Mushnick hates everybody. Even though his current complaint was about the late starts for the league's prime-time match-ups, his criticisms would be just as valid in reference to, say, officiating: "David Stern's slightly smug TV style - it could be seen and heard this week when he was seen answering Jim Rome's questions on FSN's 'Last Word' - would be easier to suffer if he took better care of NBA fans instead of TV's concerns about maximizing prime time ad revenue."

Michael Hunt talks about the stupid questions asked during the media sessions during high profile events such as the NBA Finals and says "this is why the general public should never try to practice serious journalism at home." Guess he wouldn't approve of this site then... Jack MacCallum says would-be criticizers should cut the refs some slack, since the NBA is one of the most difficult leagues to officiate. True enough. Nevertheless, he went on to admit that "Game 6 of the Kings-Lakers series was one of the worst officiated games I've ever seen. The Lakers did get most of the calls." He went on to say "the most egregious non-call made (or not made) on O'Neal has nothing to do with the physical contact he initiates. It's when he takes two steps, stops, then takes another. The man is already unstoppable; he's absolutely unstoppable when he's allowed to walk or stay in the lane for more than three seconds." Mark Kreidler says he wants Sacramento fans to stop whining about officiating, and that if the Kings had just hit their free throws in Game 7, they would be playing in the Finals. He attempts to put to rest the conspiracy theories and says the focus should be "on ridding a high-stakes, big-money sports league of its poorest officials." OK, I'll kill all the conspiracy theory talk as soon as I see Mr. Stern take some action by canning his most incompetent employees... Phil Jackson was sure to get his two cents in on Ralph Nader's letter. Asked for his comment, Phil condescendingly replied: "I feel sorry for Sacramento; it's tough to be good losers, it really is. That's a tough thing to do... I think it's ridiculous that this was done." And of course, Phil would be the expert on being a "good loser," right? Who was it that started all the whining during the Western Conference Finals? Wasn't it one of his players that ludicrously proclaimed 'the only way you can beat us starts with c and ends with t'? Byron Scott mentions that it was actually his idea to coin the term "three-peat," which Pat Riley went on to copyright. Ironic that Riley's extra income will come at the expense of Scott's team.

TODAY'S DATE: Happy birthday to Allen Iverson, who is celebrating his 27th birthday today. No word yet on whether this will have any effect on Larry Brown referring to him as "the kid."

Thursday, June 06, 2002

My official boycott of the NBA Finals began last night. I did manage to catch David Stern appearing on TNT's pre-game Inside the NBA special. Ernie Johnson asked him to respond to Ralph Nader's letter, to which Stern basically replied by wondering whether Mr. Nader has anything better to do. I will be emailing Mr. Stern a copy of my "column" on the whole issue. It'll be interesting to see whether he blows off a fan who has paid thousands of dollars to watch his product for the past 5 years in the same manner. For those who are interested, ESPN has some links to Dan Patrick's interviews with Ralph Nader, Mark Cuban, and P.J. Carlesimo on the whole subject... Even the LA Times' T.J. Simers writes that Game 6's officiating was highly fishy. Writes Simers, "I think if you put the two best Lakers together with the three best referees, that's a perfect team, probably the best the NBA has ever seen. I know the five of them did a great job together Friday night to beat the Sacramento Kings. In fact, right now I'd be willing to trade Rick Fox, Samaki Walker and Robert Horry straight up for Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Ted Bernhardt." Echoing the comments of a growing number of his colleague's, the Washington Post's Michael Wilbon says the NBA has a "perception" problem with regards to officiating, "and therefore, the NBA has a problem." Interestingly enough, Stern also mentioned during his TNT appearance last night that instant replay would be implemented next year. Had it been in place this spring, Horry's 3-pointer never would have happened, the Kings likely would have won in 5, and I would be having fun watching them kill the Nets... Peter May says the Lakers "maybe have had a couple of gift-wrapped wins." Ya think? He also referred to "the shameful performance from Game 6, when the referees basically awarded the game to Los Angeles." Of his first appearance in the NBA Finals as a head coach, Byron Scott said, "For me, I couldn't write a better script." Neither could the NBA... Reminding me why I despise the arrogant Lakers and everything they represent, Robert Horry offered this commentary on the Nets: "They have a nice little team." The Daily News offered many reasons why we hate the Lakers, including this one: "Only in California could a boor like Phil Jackson develop a reputation as a zen-like Jedi master of hoops - as if Jordan, Pippen, Shaq and Kobe didn't have something to do with all those NBA titles."

Phi Jasner writes about Allen Iverson's surprise appearance (note to Howard Eskin: guess he couldn't be late if he wasn't required to be there, huh?) at a Sixers free agent camp last week. Iverson seemed to be desparately asking for Larry to go get a shooter during his interview... Stephen A. Smith reports on Larry Brown's selection into the Hall of Fame... Magic Johnson has some more advice for Allen Iverson... Bill Lyon says the Eagles could have done worse in naming their new stadium "Lincoln Financial Field."

Jacki MacMullan says "there aren't enough triple doubles on earth that can ever make me forget" Jason Kidd is "still the man who punched his wife in the mouth in front of their little boy." Regarding the "wife beater" chants directed at Jason Kidd in Boston, Bill Walton said he was "stunned at the Nets' reaction. All they had to do was ignore [it], but with all the attention they brought upon themselves, it only gets worse." Walton went on to say that "the New Jersey comments were ill-advised and only made the situation worse." After seeing that Jason Kidd used the fans' chants as motivation to "stick it to them" (perhaps the FleetCenter fans should have just thrown those overpriced fries at him, instead of trying to throw beer at Steve Javie), Michael Gee says "in retrospect, maybe chanting nasty names at Jason Kidd wasn't such a hot strategy." Karen Guregian, Margery Egan and Mark Murphy get on their soap boxes and decry the fans' treatments of these "poor" overpaid athletes... Phil Taylor hopes some good actually comes out of the Boston fans' treatment of Kidd. Hopefully it will cause him to regret that it is his actions that have put his family in that situation. Don Chaney claims that when he "played for the Celtics from 1968-75, he heard racial taunts his first two season." He went on to say that "Boston fans...get into a frenzy sometimes and get carried away. I encountered racial things my first couple of years but once they know you and you're a Celtic, you become immune. There's definitely a problem in Boston. I was very upset, but growing up in the South, I had a feel for it." Strange that the NY Post would use these quotes in a rather feeble attempt to condemn the Boston fans for their treatment of Jason Kidd, which in no way was racially motivated. One reader wrote the Post to say, "anyone who beats his wife in front of their child loses the right to whine when a few idiots decide to chant 'wife beater' - a chant that hurts far less than a punch in the mouth." Good point. And I had to laugh when I read that quite a few fans took my suggestion seriously (even though probably none of them read it here) and handed out Kidd's mug shot on Causeway Street before Game 6.

To add fuel to the conspiracy theorists' fire, check out this humorous article that appeared in last Friday's NY Daily News. Apparently the fictitious VP was able to get in touch with Stern in time before Friday's infamous Game 6... Tom Enlund mentions that David Stern recently revealed in an online chat that "the league may be ready to add a team and go with six five-team divisions." Any chance of just putting the Lakers in their own division, since their appearance in the Finals seems to be preordained, er, a foregone conclusion lately anyway? Peter Vecsey gives 25 reasons (with tongue planted firmly in cheek, I believe) why he thinks the Nets can win. My favorite: "Kobe Bryant is hideously overdue to be deposited on his derriere while Kenyon Martin is hideously overdue for a flagrant foul." I won't be watching the Finals, but someone call me on my cell phone if this happens and I will tune in to NBC to see the replay. If and only if. Vecsey concludes the article by saying "Jayson Williams is picking up the Lakers at their airport" (ouch!) Phil Mushnick hates everybody.

George Kimball sums up the C's year by saying "it was a great run. It was fun. And we're all the better for it." Will McDonough wonders "where are all the people who criticized the FleetCenter in its early years, saying the building cut down on the crowd noise and therefore could not produce a home-court advantage?" Steve Bulpett hands out end-of-season grades for the C's, inexplicably giving Eric Williams (who disappeared during the conference finals) an A, while an A- was handed to both Walker and Pierce... Michael Gee says the C's can't just be happy with getting this far, and that they will have to make off-season improvements to go further next year... Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach had a war of words recently. Wouldn't it have been great to see these two keep this up through the Finals during a Celtics vs. Lakers series? Oh, but the NBA would have to have fixed that match-up, and we all know NBA officials would never stoop so low as to help a team earn a Finals berth... Darren Everson questioned why Erick Strickland took most of the shots in the 4th quarter of Game 6 against the Nets, if the duo of Piere and Walker "made $13 million together this season," he made sure to mention. Strangely ironic that a member of the New York media should make a big deal of this when you consider that Allen Houston and Latrell Sprewell made $26 million this year and didn't help their team come anywhere close to making the playoffs. I guess these observations are relative though... Bob Ryan says "the Celtics were able to accomplish that most difficult and precious of objectives: they made us care."

Mike Lupica talked with Larry Brown before the Celtics-Nets series, and Brown supposedly picked the Nets to advance to the Finals ("the only way to beat the Nets is to have more size, and the Celtics didn't have it"). One writer says the "Sixers came into the Staples Center last June with a weaker team than this year's Nets and won Game 1." Weaker? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Sixers had 56 wins last year, tied with the Lakers, and the only reason they didn't have home court in the Finals is because of the obscure tie breaker of "better record against the opposing conference." The Nets only had 52 wins this year, which was the same number as the Milwaukee Bucks last year. Which means the Nets would have had only the 3rd seed if you put their record in last year's standings. But they're a "better" team. What was I thinking.

Greg Easterbrook with this "TMQ" commentary on the NBA playoffs, including a comical "football gods" version of the Lord's prayer... Bill Simmons discusses questions regarding this year's NBA playoffs, including "the most disturbing subplot," no surprise here, the officiating. Bill notes a common thread among the 7 "controversial" playoff games over the past 4 years: Dick Bavetta called 'em all. Coincidence? I say not. He also called Game 6, "from an officiating standpoint, the most one-sided game of the past decade." And finally, ESPN's Darren Rovell notes that the NBA is the only major league where "at least one team in the Finals has come from one of the nation's four most populous cities in 22 of the past 23 years," and says this "has helped fortify the league's popularity" and "helped to maximize revenues." Hmm, maybe it is time to sign up for those conspiracy theory newsletters.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Shira Springer chimes in with the proverbial "live by the 3, die by the 3" cliche. She also notes that the decibel level at the FleetCenter during the playoffs reach 116 points. I wonder why NBC made such a big deal then about showing the decibel meter at Arco when it was "only" around 100?

I was going to try and return with a normal set of links today, but I have to digress for a bit, at least for now, on the state of the NBA. Peter May describes first hand the egregious way the Lakers were allowed to have their way in Game 6. Shaq said before that game "no one can do what I do. No one. I will come out aggressive because I'm not going to change the way I play." Peter went on to note that what that meant was that Shaq "simply asked that he be allowed to play his normal, bulldozer/backhoe style and he was accomodated." That's an understatement. Brian Shaw had even gone so far as to say that the officiating in the series "has given basketball a black eye, sort of like boxing, or what happened at the Olympics." You must be joking! If the officiating "favored" the Kings earlier in the series, it's because they basically outplayed the Lakers through much of the first 5 games (and arguably the sixth, which they were not given the opportunity to win, plain and simple). May went on to say "conspiracy theorists, it's all yours."

OK, I'll take the bait. I am absolutely disgusted with the NBA at this point. If the NBA is supposed to be about the "best team" winning, then exactly why is it Dick Bavetta and the rest of his cronies felt justified awarding the Lakers 40 free throws in Game 6? Twenty-seven in the fourth quarter alone (that was more than the total attempted by Sacramento the entire game). Strangely enough, the Lakers hadn't taken 27 free throws in any of the previous games. Apparently Phil Jackson's ploys weren't working with the officials yet, so he had to wait to get some nitwit like Bavetta to call the game to get his way. Did I mention yet the fact (which can be verified by checking the play-by-play, still available on the NBA's web site) that the Lakers scored one field goal in the last 6:51 of the game, and still won? When has that ever happened? Normally, if a team goes without a field goal for that kind of stretch at the end of the fourth quarter, they lose by 10-15 points. Unless, of course, you play in LA, you play in a building named after an office supply company, and you get to parade to the free throw line on nearly every offensive possession. Did the Kings have a chance to win at home in Game 7? Absolutely. Is it their fault they lost that game? Certainly (missing 14 free throws in that deciding game should haunt them for the rest of the summer). Should it have even come to that? Not a chance. And I haven't even brought up the fact that Samaki Walker's 3-pointer at the end of the first half (after the buzzer, replays clearly showed) of Game 4 shouldn't have counted. The Lakers won that game by 1 point on a Horry 3-pointer (that actually did beat the buzzer). So that leaves us two games that the Lakers had no business winning.

I'm not the only one wondering what was going on with the officiating either. Both Stephen A. Smith (who has notoriously been riding the Laker bandwagon the past couple years) and David Alridge weighed in on the subject over the weekend. In addition, when NBC play-by-play guy Marv Albert wasn't calling yet another "facial' being served up by Shaq or Kobe (am I the only one who got tired of hearing that line?), "Snapper" Jones and Bill Walton were openly questioning the officiating on the air, which is unusual for the pair. For instance, they would wonder how Doug Christie's face could foul Kobe Bryan's elbow...they would wonder how Kobe could be allowed to plow over Bibby (leading to a bloody nose for the latter), and be awarded 2 free throws for his efforts, when the Kings still had a chance to Shaq can continue to bulldoze over opponents. The list goes on and on.

Is there a conspiracy? Was David Stern or Dick Bavetta caught lurking on the grassy knoll? It's hard to believe things could be "fixed" in such a manner and that the whistle hasn't been blown (no pun intended). But let's just put it this way: neither the NBA or NBC is losing any sleep now that their two-time defending champ Lakers are in the Finals. Along with the Nets. Now I know why all those obnoxious "Love it Live" ads would always feature Kobe and Kidd puckering up to the Larry O'Brien trophy. Come to think of it, I might have seen one promo with the Kings (Mike Bibby I believe) involved during the entire last month, compared to seeing one of Kidd or Bryant at least once an hour. Remind me again which team had the best record in the NBA during the regular season? Why did the crew from NBC lace their comments toward the end of Game 7 with statements like "Can the Kings pull off the incredible upset?" Exactly how would it be an upset since they're playing at home, in a Game 7 in the Conference Finals, circumstances in which the Lakers had never one before?

And this, folks, is why I am absolutely through with the NBA, at least for the time being. I refuse to watch a single minute of the NBA Finals. For those of you who are interested in my prediction, however, I refer you to my first post ever to Dave's Sporting News (refer to April 4, 2002 entry), in which I (unknowingly at the time), predicted that if the Nets made the Finals, it would be FOUR-AND-OH, and I stand by that. At the time, I told myself if the Nets advanced that far, maybe "I need to abandon the NBA." I think I'm going to follow my own advice, at least for now.

I am so angry at what I have seen transpire over the past few months. And for those who want to say this is just "sour grapes" of a Sixers fan whose team got ousted in the first round, I will tell them they don't know what they're talking about. I was not this angry with the NBA when the Lakers beat us in the Finals last year. I wasn't even this angry when the Celtics walloped us in Game 5 at the FleetCenter. In both of those cases, the better team won. I truly believe in my heart that was not the case with this year's Western Conference Finals, and for that reason, I am not subjecting myself to the 2002 NBA Illegitimate Finals. If I wanted to watch something that I knew the ending of in advance of watching, I would go rent Titanic (I know the boat's going to sink), or go see a Star Wars prequel again (I know Anakin Skywalker is going to turn into Darth Vader eventually).

Some of this anger admittedly stems back from the All-Star Game. This is an event that regular season ticket holders, like myself, had the privilege of paying $300 for a pair of tickets (not including parking, that was extra), to sit in the nosebleeds of our own arena (and I do mean nosebleeds, I was one row removed from the last possible row...seats I would never ever pay money for to see a Sixers game). And for paying for this luxury, I got to be scolded by (to borrow a phrase from Jackie MacMullan) dimwitted national columnists who chided us for having the audacity to boo (supposed "home town hero") Kobe Bryant, who was clearly trying to showboat in front of the city in which he declared, months earlier, that he would "rip their hearts out." Hmm, I can't possibly imagine why there would be any animosity there. I'll save the whole Jason Kidd-booing and chants of "wife-beater" by FleetCenter crowds, which was also ripped by the New York media (of all places), for another day.

The bottom line is this: I refuse to have David Stern, Kobe Bryant, and Jason Kidd piss in my $5 souvenir cup, and then tell me enjoy my drink. I'm not going to do it. So someone can email me next June when some team other than the Lakers are allowed to play in the Finals. Maybe then I can get interested in watching again. Until then, I just don't give a damn.