Conspiracy theory has given way to belief in debate over who we believe – disgraced felon/former referee Tim Donaghy or NBA commissioner David Stern? To me, it’s a close race. Money clouds the issue as both are trying to profit from their words – Donaghy by being damaging and sharing “new” information in book form and Stern with damage control for his league. Basketball is an extremely difficult game to officiate, yet the officials can have the greatest impact on the outcome of just about any major sport. The unfortunate reality is that the trustworthiness of these officials has been compromised by the scandal of Donaghy – and it definitely doesn’t help that Stern comes off as one of the craftiest/shadiest personalities in sports.
Three games into the NBA Finals, the officiating continues to dominate the news as the pace and flow of the game are almost non-existent with whistles blown too frequently and significant players sitting out due to foul trouble. Stern continues to try to find the right words to say in every instance, but the argument is growing stale. The product is not what casual fans would turn into watch and few people truly trust that the players are the only ones on the court who are concerned with the outcome.
David Stern joined Dennis and Callahan on WEEI in Boston to discuss officials affecting the flow of the game, being an image-conscious league, what he wants to change, and Armando Galarraga.
On if he thinks that officials are hurting the flow of the finals:
“We can check the numbers. I look at them. I was sitting at the game on Sunday, being very thankful that I wasn’t an official because the pace and the speed and the intensity and the passion with which our guys play is very, very difficult to officiate. And once you make a decision that a foul has occurred in front of you and you are not going to call it, then you are endangering our players. That’s all. And it’s a hard job that these guys have. These games are particularly intense. The teams have enough time to figure out what they’re going to do to the other. And they test the officials. They test them. They push and push and push. And if the officials don’t step up, then you’re going to have chaos and a game decided on (something) other than its merits. I recognized the risk that you are going to have a lot fouls called as well. But we’ve got very large bodies in small places, and it’s our job, our duty to protect these players.”
On if the high foul rate is related to the NBA controlling its image:
“We’re not overly image-conscious. We just want our players to play a great game and to play it a according to the rules.”
On what he thinks needs to be fixed in the NBA:
“Oh, boy. I think that as long as there are human beings officiating games, you’re going to have a certain amount of missed every game that can only be made by going back and using instant replay. And balancing the desire to get it perfect with the need to have a game that is played in less than four hours is what keeps me up at night. That’s a tough one. I’m a tennis fan. I love tennis. Stop after every play. Player challenge. Natural enough, and the fans understand that they’re getting accurate calls. This one is more difficult. But when you go back sometimes, because I know I heard it from a few fans in Los Angeles as you might guess on the way out, then you look at the difference in foul shots, the Lakers did a lot better than the Celtics did at the foul line.”
And on if he would have instated Armando Galarraga’s perfect game: