David Stern probably woke up at 4 am this morning in a cold sweat. Nike is rapidly putting together a Carmelo Anthony puppet and debating whether a Hedo Turkoglu doll would scare children. Mike Breen just asked himself, “If nobody’s even watching the games, do I really need to wear my toupee?”
We’re on the precipice of an NBA Finals featuring the Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets, and at the end of the worst calendar year in NBA officiating history it will be quite interesting to see how the league reacts after their coveted Kobe/LeBron matchup has slipped from inevitable to not-that-likely.
Not that it’s either Mamba’s fault or LeKing’s, but the NBA’s insistence on focusing on the individual star is getting smacked upside Stern’s head by guys named Rafer and the Birdman. The Lakers still have homecourt, but they’ve been outplayed by a tough, spirited Nuggets squad that has turned the Lakers vaunted frontcourt into a liability. The Cavaliers should actually be down 3-0 to Orlando, as their fraudulent, unimaginative offense has been exposed by Stan Van Gundy, of all people.
But after a year consisting of the Tim Donaghy point-shaving scandal, rampant fan and writer complaints about officiating quality and a postseason that has been marred by an inconsistent, illogical and altogether ruinous flagrant foul policy, will the NBA do what they’ve been accused of in the past? Will they attempt to manipulate the outcomes of this week’s games to ensure an NBA Finals jam-packed with high ratings and LeBron vs. Kobe puppet commercials?
With higher playoff ratings than ever, the NBA’s first priority right now is to extend these current series to seven games apiece, and nothing ensures officiating bias more than playing a Game 7 at home. So look for LeBron to get every call tonight and Thursday, Kobe and Pau go enjoy the same on Wednesday, followed by Orlando and Denver getting the same treatment at home in their respective Game 6’s, capped by a little home cooking for Los Angeles and Cleveland in Game 7.
Hey, I’ve been wrong before. Maybe Orlando will rout Cleveland tonight and Denver will manhandle L.A. in the paint tomorrow. After all, David Stern surely doesn’t need another conspiracy theory on their hands, given his league already has enough of them floating around.
Still, the NBA, ABC/ESPN, Nike and a host of others have millions riding on what happens, and much of it will be effected by which officials are assigned to this week’s games and how they call those contests. That’s an even scarier thought than picturing a Hedo puppet.