Saturday, April 30, 2005

Official Rant
By Ben Valentine

From time to time, I wonder why the NBA is my last favorite league.

In my pantheon of professional sports, basketball ranks at the bottom; fifth overall behind football, baseball, hockey and soccer. That's right soccer. I'd rather watch Liverpool v. Chelsea than Nuggets v. Spurs.

As one might gather, this makes me a social outcast among my sports friends. Well, everyone except T-bone anyway. Plus as a young African American, I'm technically bound by the rules of stereotypes to love basketball more than I love my PS2. So naturally I periodically have to ask myself, am I messed up in the head?

Of course I am. But not because of the NBA thing.

You see, watching my Nets play the Miami Heat in game 2 and then again in game 3 I remembered what I can't stand about the NBA.

The officiating.
You can't guard him. The secret service couldn't guard him. The NBA won't allow it.

My biggest complaint about the NBA for years has been the officials. The game is called lopsided. Basically, the stars get all the calls. They not only get fouls called on the opposing team, but they themselves never pick up any fouls. It works in reverse too. If you get a bad rep with the officials, then you get fouls called on you even if you did nothing wrong.

I know what you're thinking. Every sport has favortism. Umpires give a bigger strike zone to reputable control pitchers and a smaller strike zone to reputable hitters. Pass interference is more easily called for the big name receiver. First period penalties aren't called in the third period of a hockey game. Of course, big name soccer players will get calls more frequently than the pedestrian players.

So yes, every sport has its favoritism. Problem is in the NBA is the problem is far more pronounced and has a far larger effect on the game.

In baseball, pitchers and hitters can adjust to the strike zone. Same thing with pass interference; a good corner can play a bit more careful and get by. In hockey, the occurance of penalties affects both teams equally. And soccer officials will rarely allow a game to be decided by a penalty unless it is a clear foul. But in the NBA, the foul call can be the turning point of a game.

For example, in game 3, Shaq somehow managed to pick up five fouls. (Probably because OT gave him more time to do so) That's a big deal because in a close game, without Shaq, the Nets have the edge. So on a big offensive possession, Shaq has the ball. Jason Collins, the Nets center, plays great D. Shaq has to pass the ball out. He gets it back. With the shot clock running down, he elbows Collins in the face and throws up a desparation shot. It misses and goes out of bounds. Nets ball, right?

Wrong. Late whistle. Foul on the Nets. Shaq gets two free throws and hits them both.

This is the essence of the problem. Shaq got a call because he was Shaq. He committed an offensive foul in the process, but instead got two free throws out of it. What's worse, there is nothing Collins can do to adjust his game. He can't step back and allow Shaq to take an unchallenged shot. He has to play close. Yet even though he doesn't initiate the contact and receives the worse of it, HE gets the foul. So how can he play it right? How can he play it, so that Shaq doesn't pick up two points?

There is no way. And that's the problem.

In no sport except basketball is there a way for one player to be unstoppable. You see, contact can usually be called a foul. Contact happens on every play. Thus essentially, a foul can be called on every play. Of course, that would make for a bad game to watch. So the officials don't call a fouls all the time. But it seems like when they do call one, it is influenced by who the players involved are. And when good defense isn't allowed to stop a player then nothing can.

In this series I've seen Dwayne Wade jump INTO Nets repeatedly on plays and get fouls called on that Net player. In the Seattle/ Sacramento game 3, I saw Danny Fortson, not a friend of the officials, pick up a blocking foul when Mike Bibby lowered his shoulder and ran into him. The NEXT possession down the floor for the Sonics, a Sonic player did the same thing. No foul was called.

If only Diouf could spit on the NBA for me.

Plays like this can decide a game and in the postseason, can decide a series. If Shaq can't be guarded because even good defense will result in fouls, then the Heat get an unfair advantage. More to the point, it favors teams that have stars, because they will get more calls than a team that doesn't have the big names. And there isn't anything that opposing team can do.

As Sportszilla says, "that's the NBA officiating for you." Yes it is. And that's why given the choice, I'd rather watch El Hadji Diouf than Vince Carter.


Blogger KnickerBlogger said...

What's hockey?

10:05 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home