Tuesday, April 17, 2007

You wanna go?

By John Gottlieb
The Phanatic Magazine

Joey Crawford must've skipped his Wheaties on Sunday for the Mavericks-Spurs game. Crawford, always ranked as one of the NBA's best referees, lost his cool and took it out on Tim Duncan, who was thrown out of a game for just the second time in his career.

The 31-year vet went so far as to reportedly challenge the 6-11, 260-pound forward to a fight. Video evidence clearly showed that Crawford jumped the gun with his little temper tantrum on the All Star. Since when is laughter grounds for a second technical foul and ejection from an NBA game that helped decide seedings for the playoffs?

And for that David Stern suspended Crawford for at least the rest of the regular season and the playoffs on Tuesday.

"Joey Crawford's handling of this situation failed to meet the standards of professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees," said Stern. "Especially in light of similar prior acts by this official, a significant suspension is warranted. Although Joey is consistently rated as one of our top referees, he must be held accountable for his actions on the floor, and we will have further discussions with him following the season to be sure he understands his responsibilities."

This was the straw that broke the camel's back after Crawford was sent to the Principal's office during the 2003 playoffs. Stern summoned Crawford after calling four technicals on the Mavs, including two on head coach Don Nelson, during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs.

Crawford has problems playing nice with Duncan, who was assessed a technical from the hardass official in Game 3 of the 2005 NBA Finals.

They should make Joey Crawford go to anger management with Ron Artest.

It's no secret the Duncan has a habit of complaining to the officials but that's typical for NBA superstars. Without the back-and-forth banter Duncan wouldn't get half the calls from the refs. That's the way it works in the Association. If you're a big enough star you get to talk your way into more whistles. By the time the Bulls were hitting their stride, on their way to six NBA titles, you couldn't touch Michael Jordan without sending him to the charity stripe.

Like it or not it creates a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots. It tips the balance to the Cavs with LeBron and away from the Sixers with Andre Iguodala. It's become an unwritten rule in the NBA to lobby for the fouls.

Apparently Crawford didn't like what he was hearing from Duncan, who swears that he said only three words to the official ("I got fouled") before getting tossed.

"He came into the game with a personal vendetta against me," said Duncan.

"He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?' If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?' "

What could've drove Crawford over the edge to challenge Duncan to fisticuffs? Either way it doesn't matter, but it got me thinking about officials that I would like to see go one-on-one with NBA players. I like a card of Dick Bavetta v. Reggie Miller, Bob Delaney v. Rasheed Wallace, Steve Javie v. Gary Payton, Bennett Salvatore v. Jerry Sloan, Tom Washington v. Bill Laimbeer and we’ll top it off with Crawford v. Duncan. Fair fights you ask. I guarantee you one of these prima donna NBA players would fall like a ton of bricks.

Crawford must think he'd have a good shot at taking the big man down. Maybe he knows a weakness in Duncan's game. For all we know Crawford went to Royce Gracie's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school, and if that's the case I'd really like to see them go at it.

It's about time that officials get a little taste of their own medicine. This was a game that sealed the Western Conference's No. 2 spot for the Phoenix Suns. It's not like this was the 10th game of the season. This game meant something. Not quite right when an NBA ref takes the outcome of the game and alters it by throwing a team's best player out for no reason.

I applaud the commish for taking a strong stand right before the playoffs. Crawford is a good official that has been on the court for more than 2,100 regular season contests, 266 playoff games and 38 NBA Finals matchups. But there should be no tolerance for situations like the one that occurred on Sunday.

It's good that Stern made an example of one of the NBA's best foot soldiers in Crawford. Finally, it's about time someone holding the whistle or calling balls and strikes gets punished. While the athletes are always portrayed as whiners or crybabies, there's no way that they are not provoked from overzealous officials from time to time. It definitely goes both ways.

Next time Joey C. or any other ref will think twice about picking a fight with a superstar athlete. Have fun at home watching the NBA playoffs unfold, Joey. Why don't you take the rest of the summer off?

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