Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is the NBA greasing the skids for Superman?

By John McMullen

(The Phanatic Magazine) - You have heard the whispers for years.

The NBA is a league built upon stars and those stars receive preferential

"The Jordan Rules" still exist for the Kobes, LeBrons and Dwight Howard's of
the world.

There is little question that NBA commissioner David Stern considers his
product a fusion between sports and entertainment with a heavy emphasis on
the "entertainment."

In fact, I often wonder what Stern considers his competition. Is it the NFL,
NHL, Major League Baseball or American Idol?

Conspiracy theorists believe Stern would rather see Howard and the Orlando
Magic advance in playoffs, rather than watch a plodding, offensively-
challenged Philadelphia team, featuring Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff in
the middle.

So, in their minds, Stern and his embattled officiating program are, shall we
say, nudging Howard and his underachieving Magic teammates toward the second

Is it true?

Well, let's just say it got a lot easier to make the argument this morning.

The self-proclaimed "Superman," a 6-foot-11 monster of a center, dominated the
court to the tune of 24 points and 24 rebounds in the 91-78 Game 5 Magic win
on Tuesday that gave Orlando a choke hold on the first-round series.

Problem is, Howard should have been ejected in the first quarter after
throwing an elbow to the head of Dalembert.

NBA rules call for an immediate ejection in such instances but the officiating
crew, led by the controversial Joey Crawford, allowed Howard to remain in the
game. Meanwhile, plausible deniability, as in "We didn't see anything" isn't
an option since Howard was hit with a technical foul.

The league will probably suspend Howard for Game 6 in Philly but so what -- he
will be rested in ready for the deciding game in Orlando on Saturday.

If the officials did their jobs Howard would have hit the showers early, the
Sixers likely win Game 5 and have a chance to wrap things up on their home

That's a big difference, folks.

You hate to bring up Tim Donaghy in these situations but Stern has left
himself open to this type of scrutiny.

The league officially wiped its collective hands of the disgraced referee on
late last year by releasing the results of a review of the league's
officiating program.

Lawrence B. Pedowitz, a former chief of the Criminal Division in the United
States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, was appointed
by the NBA to review the officiating program and make recommendations.

Following a 14-month investigation, Pedowitz recommended significant changes.
The 116-page report recommended increased monitoring of games for suspicious
activity, and thought the league should increase efforts to eliminate the
perception of referee bias by making more information available about the
referee program and increasing access to the referees by fans and media.

Pedowitz' last point is the one Stern should have taken to heart.

Even before Donaghy alleged that the NBA routinely encouraged refs to call
bogus fouls in order to manipulate results, that's how most fans felt about
the league's officials. Sixers coach Tony DiLeo is likely feeling that way
right now.

Despite the fact that four or five NFL games a week are decided by men in
striped shirts, and any Major League Baseball game can hinge on whether the
home plate umpire decides to give some junkballer the outside corner, the
perception has always been that NBA officials are the corrupt ones.

While I hesitate to throw Crawford under the bus, I quickly got over it since
the veteran ref has done it to himself time and time again. We all know the
Philadelphia native's history.

In 1998, Crawford was one of eight NBA referees charged with filing false
income tax returns. An Internal Revenue Service investigation alleged that
cash was being pocketed by Crawford and the other refereed when airline
tickets provided by the league were downgraded.

At the conclusion of the four-year investigation, Crawford pleaded guilty on
for falsely stating income of $82,500 from 1991 to 1993 and resigned from the
NBA effective immediately. He was quickly reinstated by Stern in 1999.

On April 15, 2007, Crawford ejected San Antonio Spurs superstar Tim Duncan for
supposedly laughing at him from his seat on the bench during a game against
the Dallas Mavericks. Duncan alleged that Crawford challenged him to a fight
on the court.

Since the NBA suspended Crawford for the remainder of the season and the 2007
Playoffs as a result of this altercation, I guess we know who was telling the
truth. In fact, Stern said Crawford's actions "failed to meet the standards of
professionalism and game management we expect of NBA referees."

The result?

Crawford was back the next year and chosen to officiate a critical Game 4
between the Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. In the closing seconds of that
one, there was a crucial no-call where the Spurs' Brent Barry was fouled by
Derek Fisher. Crawford was the closest official to the call, and the NBA later
apologized for the faux pas.

Before Tuesday's game in Orlando, Crawford was already at it again with a
number of questionable calls in Game 2 of the first round series between the
Rockets and Trailblazers in Portland. A phantom call in the final seconds in
that one secured the game for the Blazers

So why does Crawford keep getting key games in the postseason?

According to the conspiracy theorists, he's doing his job.

I think there is a far simpler explanation, one that's far less sinister.

Crawford and his crew made a mistake...a big one that may affected the outcome
of an entire series.

NBA Sale

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