Fouling Up The NBA Playoffs

Bobby Curran
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Friday - April 27, 2011
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The NBA expected action-packed, star-driven playoff games and they’ve gotten them, with a sprinkling of upsets thrown in for good measure. It also knew there would be a lot of conversation about the labor situation, and it was right there as well. What took it by surprise was the shoddy game-changing officiating that has some coaches nearly apoplectic, and fans shaking their heads. When Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins had his hand in the cylinder not once but twice on the same play late in Game 1, being credited with a basket that counted but should very obviously have been waved off and in effect giving the Thunder the win against the Nuggets, Denver head coach George Karl could only ask, “How could three guys not see it?”

Karl was seconded on his judgment the next day by a league statement that agreed game officials had erred in not disallowing the basket. When the Knicks were on the verge of knocking out the Celtics in Game 1 of their series, Boston’s Big Baby Davis was posting up with the ball, anticipated contact that wasn’t there, and stumbled backwards three full steps, falling on his rear quarter panel, and nobody blew a whistle.

Best summing it all up was Portland coach Nate McMillan, who when asked about a bad call in his first game against Dallas could only reply, “Which one?”

Why is the officiating so bad? One reason may be that under current contract rules, playoff games are no longer assigned to the highest rated officials but rather handed out on a straight rotation. Considering the number of NBA teams losing money, commissioner David Stern has other priorities, at least until poor officiating messes up an NBA final.

* I would never argue the basic premise that hard work and practice are a must to great athletic success, but they alone are not enough. Taking a cue from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which posits that it takes 10,000 hours to become really good at something, 30-year-old Dan McLaughlin is out to become a professional golfer. For all the hackers and weekend warriors who have spent decades trying to become merely respectable, it does seem quite a stretch. Quite a few respected observers have weighed in, including UH men’s volleyball coach Charlie Wade: “It’s a little different in sports. If that 5-foot-5-inch 250-pound guy puts in 10,000 hours developing his volleyball skills, he’s still not going to be a Division 1 player. He’ll get better, but could never compete at a high level.”

Maybe he should put the 10,000 hours into becoming a caddie. Future star Dustin Johnson has parted ways with Bobby Brown, his caddie of the last three years. With a caddie receiving about 10 percent of a player’s winnings, toting Johnson’s bag could be a pretty lucrative gig.

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