Every sports league or company needs a face guy. You need your biggest name or best player to look good and shine brightest on the big stage, and not embarrass him or herself. There aren’t many Fortune 500 companies that throw out some bumbling idiot like Bobby Pellitt to represent them. David Stern & the NBA higher ups still feel the sting of the Malice at the Palace and have been determined to clean up the image of their league ever since the night that Ron Artest went bat shit crazy. Quicker technical fouls have been ordered (unless you’re on the Heat, of course), a stricter dress code (even though most players penalize their own fashion sense with their swawgdrobe) & an NBA Cares promotion that is shoved down our throats during broadcasts. It’s a complete bullshit campaign, but Stern is obsessed with image like the ass-bags that go to gyms for the sole purpose of looking at themselves in the mirror.
Ever since “The Decision” and proceeding championship celebration turned the majority of basketball fans against the league’s most dominant player, it’s been the league’s goal to make people love LeBron James again. And if you hate him at this point just to hate him, you’ll have to respect him when he wins his first title. That’s the NBA’s thinking. Much like Vince McMahon forcing John Cena down fans’ gullets for years by making him unbeatable yet vulnerable, Stern can’t stomach people hating James despite how brilliantly he has played in these playoffs (13 30 point games in this soon to be completed title run).
The league desperately wants James to win his first title, and the officiating has shown that mandate. In Stern’s world, seeing James walk off the court in defeat the past few years in humbling fashion is bad for “basketball business.” This isn’t taking away what James (who has been video game great) & the Heat are doing, nor does it absolve the Thunder’s miserable help defense & Russell Westbrook’s Chris Webber moment at the end of game 4.
Go back to game two that changed this series. LeBron clearly fouled Kevin Durant on the potential game typing jumper. James then clobbered Westbrook going for a lose ball. And when James got the ball, he traveled so blatantly that the only people that didn’t see it (or want to see it) were the guys who are paid to make such calls.
Criticizing these refs isn’t new. I’ve long believed that Stern & his cronies needed and wanted the ’02 Lakers to make the finals (Stern himself said that year his ideal finals matchup would be “The Lakers vs the Lakers.”), and made it happen with the atrocity that was game 6 of the WCF. So why would now be any different?
After the Thunder took game 1 handily, a nervous collection of suits saw their top dog in trouble. So, here came Danny Crawford & Tony Brothers to the rescue. It never needs to be obvious and egregious for 48 minutes, but subtle calls to kill an OKC run and the Heat’s ability to grab and hold on defense is ignored by the refs–and don’t forget the Heat’s bailout offense where guys drive the lane, lower a should & a get a call. It’s always awesome seeing them get the whistles that Durant and the Thunder haven’t gotten when they drive to the basket and get hit.
You want numbers, fine. Going into game 4, Durant had committed 12 fouls in the first 3 games of this series. Compare that to the 10 fouls he had committed in the playoffs leading up to the finals. How do you get rid of a nuisance you can’t stop? You eliminate it. And that’s what happened to Durant in games 2 & 3 of this series (Durant has averaged 3.75 fouls per game in the finals compared to 2 per game during the season). Durant also only had 5 fouls in a game twice in his past 23 games before this series. And we’re not supposed to believe something’s up when he gets 5 in back-to-back games? Yeah, totally.
It’s also apparently okay for James to throw the ball off the back of the backboard and it not be considered out of bounds, initiate and create contact in the post and get the call & slap James Harden’s hands away from him and get to the line. A 6’8 275 pound freak of nature is allowed free reign and the officials are too scared to call him for anything because they’ll have to feel the wrath of Dwyane Wade’s constant stares and fake tough bitching.
Speaking of Wade, isn’t Westbrook playing an attacking style of ball that made the swagalicious douche a star in ’06? Russ’ 43 points in game 4 could have been 50 if he had the benefit of a few calls. Guess how many free throws he was awarded for his ultra aggressive play in game 4? Three. 32 shots from the field (15 of those 32 were within 10 feet of the hoop by the way) and three free throws. If Wade or James attempted that many shots in the painted area, they’d get a call on at least eight of them. You can’t argue otherwise.
Granted, the Thunder have pissed away three games due to awful team defense, slow starts, Scott Brooks’ refusal to pull Kendrick Perkins earlier in games & his continued idiotic decision of having Harden guard James, but they also played 5 on 8 in games 2 & 3. If there’s a 50/50 call, it’s going Miami’s way without even the slightest hesitation. Why does a team that berates officials, acts entitled & flops all over the court get the benefit of the doubt? Because James is Stern’s money guy. And what’s the number one rule in life? Follow the money. And that’s exactly what the Commish is doing. When it’s all about the money, Stern could care less about integrity.