The problem with the NBA

28 05 2008

NBAIn my opinion, the biggest problem with the NBA is the subjectivity of the referees.  This was on full display last night in game 4 of the Lakers vs. Spurs Western Conference finals series.  Brent Barry got the ball with just a couple seconds left, pump faked and got Derek Fisher to bite and jump into the air.  As Fisher came down, there was obvious contact between him and Barry.  Barry’s mistake was in seemingly trying to avoid contact instead of leaning into Fisher which would have almost certainly forced the ref to blow the whistle.  But, since he appeared to try to elude contact, the ref opted for the non-call.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not a Spurs apologist.  In fact the best thing about this series is that either the Lakers or the Spurs are going to lose!

But, this play just illustrates what is in my opinion the biggest problem that the NBA has.  There is just too much subjectivity on the part of the officials.  They call the game based on the context of the game.  There is something inehently wrong with that.  In other words, early in the game, the contact between Fisher and Barry would have almost certainly been a foul, but at this point, in this context, it was not.  It’s either a foul or it’s not a foul….right?  Apparently not.

And, this modus operandi is just commonly accepted among everyone associated with the game including players, coaches, analysts, beat writers, broadcasters, etc etc…

On every single possession, there is one or more calls that could be made and it is left entirely up to the three officials on the court to make a subjective decision on whether or not to blow the whistle.

One classic situation that happens all the time in the NBA is the late whistle foul.  In this situation, a player drives to the basket and takes some contact in the act of shooting a lay-up.  The ball bounces around the rim and eventually falls out.  It isn’t until that point that the referee blows the whistle.  Clearly, the referee is waiting to see if the ball went before making the decision to blow the whistle.  So, if the ball had gone in, this would not have been a foul, but since it bouced out, the whistle blows.  This situation drives me insane everytime I see it.  Do they think we are idiots?  Either it’s a foul or it’s not a foul.  Whether or not the ball goes through the basket should not make any difference.  But, everyone knows that it does.  And, we all just accept this as part of the game.

So, what can be done to address this problem?  Well, that’s why it is the NBA’s biggest problem in my opinion…because there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it.  It will constantly lead to consipiracy theories, to outcomes such as last night’s game where the ref basically dictated the result, to star players getting the benefit of the doubt calls, to rookies getting the rookie calls, to floppers, to whiney players, to dirty players (ie – Ginoble, Duncan, Bowen, and oh yeah….Derek Fisher), etc etc.

So, what am I trying to say?  Well, mostly that I love the NBA, but I hate this aspect of it and it frustrates me to no end season after season.

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7 responses

29 05 2008
BuffaloNickel

In a wonderfully ironic twist, the NBA front office acknowledged that “a two-shot foul should have been called on Derek Fisher for impeding Brent Barry.” Sorry, Spurs…those are the breaks. Oh, and don’t mention the whispered inpropriety of Joey Crawford being the closest official to make the call. The same Joey Crawford who was suspended indefinitely for ejecting Tim Duncan from a game (against the Mavs) for laughing and then eventually fully reinstated. I don’t think the NBA can totally resolve this issue, but they could certainly be a little smarter. Let’s see, hmmm…Joey Crawford got suspended for throwing TD out of a game…hmmm…let’s let him officiate game 4 of the western conference finals on the Spurs homecourt. Yeah, I don’t think anything bad could happen as a result of that. Nothing that could add additional fuel to the conspiracy theorists out there…nah…

29 05 2008
BuffaloNickel

meant to include this link in my last comment http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2008/news/story?id=3416412

29 05 2008
Jamie

I had forgotten the Crawford was the ref. (Thanks for reminding me.) As a Spurs fan, though, I do remember saying “oh, crap” at tipoff when I saw that Crawford was reffing the game. Just to add a little to that, you may have missed the shouting match that Crawford and Pop got into A LITTLE OVER A WEEK AGO in New Orleans. It was like an old school baseball manager going after an umpire, although I’m not sure who was the antagonist. Thanks to David Stern for putting the right man on the job Tuesday night. I’m not really a conspiracy theory guy, but no doubt the league want the Lakers in the finals above the Spurs.

Note: All this aside, the Spurs had their chance to win the game, and they just blew it. Everytime they had a chance to take the lead, they would miss a wide open shot which would lead to a score in transition for the Lakers. And, of course, as you mentioned, Barry should have gone up with the ball, forcing a foul call and shooting three for the win. (That is, of course, assuming making it more obvious would force Joey to actually make the call….)

29 05 2008
BuffaloNickel

Wow, more NBA news. An anti-flopping policy? Complete with fines and everything. Raise your hand if you think this will change things…
http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3416579

31 05 2008
Michael

Officiating in the NBA has to be the toughest job in the league as it is. Throw in clowns like Joey Crawford who takes everything personally and tries to be more than a referee…well, you get a tarnished game. Not to mention Tim Donaghy and the corruption he brought…

Something has to be done. The flopping rule may help but at some point, the blame has to fall on the referees.

I can understand the league trying to protect the refs because everyone and their mom thinks EVERY call is a bad one…but just like the league is drawing a line with floppers, they must draw a line with referees.

Replay review of controversial calls, game evaluations, hell, even suspensions and fines (much smaller ones than players of course). If their cracking down on players, they have to do the same for refs.

31 05 2008
BuffaloNickel

Oh great, now I have two spurs fans commenting on my NBA blog. I feel out-numbered…

2 06 2008
Michael

Yeah…we’re taking over the world.

Actually, I think you’ve reached the maximum number of Spurs fans the average person knows.

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