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Final Thoughts (Maybe) On The Non-Call

So, the NBA decided to admit that Derek Fisher fouled Brent Barry on the final possession of Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. That's really nice. Nothing feels better than picking at a scab.


Is everybody happy now? (Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

The statement the NBA released on Wednesday "that a foul should've been called" is about as helpful as the statement the league released earlier in the playoffs when it admitted that Chauncey Billups' three-pointer at the end of the third quarter in Game 2 against Orlando shouldn't have counted because the clock froze, giving Billups what amounted to about an extra second to shoot. The three points still counted.

This latest confession doesn't change anything, either. If anything, it only infuriates the San Antonio Spurs and their fans even more - especially after Barry, Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan all acknowledged that they didn't expect a foul to be called in that situation.

In my last post about the Barry non-call, I mentioned that referees rarely call fouls in the final seconds of close games so that the game isn't decided by free throws. I'm not saying that it is something that I agree with but it is something that happens - and that I've grown to accept, I guess, unfortunately (I thought Michael Wilbon's column was right on today when he compared the subjectivity of fouls in the NBA to umpires calling balls and strikes in baseball). Anyone who watches the game a lot knows this. And it's one the reasons why the Spurs, even though they had every reason to complain, held their tongues afterward.


Think we didn't know Chauncey's three shouldn't have counted? (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

"If you talk to an official, they will tell you that the game is called the same at the end of the game as it is at the beginning of the game. That's their story and we're going to stand by it," Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said on Wednesday afternoon. "In reality, personally, I don't think that's true and I can give a thousand examples that things are called differently down the stretch; where I think most referrees feel - and I agree with them - that things have to be more definitive before you can make a call. The referee is going to be hesitant to make a call that could decide a game at the end of the game unless it is really gross or obvious."

I don't have to reach all the way back to Michael Jordan shoving Bryon Russell in the NBA Finals 10 years ago; there was a classic example of the officials holding onto their whistles in Game 5 of the Wizards' first round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Wizards led by one point when LeBron James drove toward the basket and Zydrunas Ilgauskas shoved Darius Songaila into James. Songaila turned his back and braced himself. James and Songaila rammed into each other. His shot hit the backboard and rolled off the rim. It was an obvious collision but . . . nothing. No harm, no call. Wizards win.


Wasn't this a foul, too? (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

James was shocked. He looked around for a foul. Mike Brown screamed for a foul. The could-be King couldn't get a call in his own court? The fans at Quicken Loans Arena went ballistic, much like those at AT&T Center on Tuesday night, except nobody was crying conspiracy - because really, why wouldn't the league want James to advance? (I suppose you could say the league made up for it by suspending Songaila for Game 6, but that's another discussion for another day)

The front page of the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday had a picture of Derek Fisher landing on top of Barry with the headline, "No Foul," which I'm sure will keep the locals fuming into next season - at least (this NBA statement only makes it worse). But the fact remains that players ranging from James to Barry have been bumped on final shots and the referees, just walked off the court, got dressed and skipped town.

We all know that officiating in the NBA isn't always good. We also know that replays get played in continuous, sometimes nauseating loops, so we get to determine that this or that was a foul or not, but the official is watching it live.

They are human. They make mistakes (such as missing Fisher's shot hitting the rim with 5.6 seconds left and rolling off Robert Horry's leg, which would've been a new shot clock and no last second shot for the Spurs). They also let some things ride in the end. Let's move on.


By Michael Lee  |  May 29, 2008; 7:25 AM ET
 
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Comments

There's human error and deliberate swallowing of your whistle. Not seeing that the shot hit the rim can be human error. But unless you are blind, there's no way you don't see Fisher bumping Barry on that play. I am glad the NBA admitted their wrong doing but what good does that do the Spurs? Can they file a grievance and have the last few seconds replayed?

Anyway, to me the NBA is like a scripted reality show. Sometimes things happen by chance but the key incidents are directed by the guys behind the camera. So yeah the Wizards might win a few games but the NBA will step in and make sure they don't advance at the expense of the King and his boys. Even if that means letting LeBron walk all the time and suspending a key reserve 5 hours before a crucial game 6.

Posted by: Bart | May 29, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Watch the replay carefully. Barry traveled before he got fouled.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR4m0ZThDYY


Go Lakers!

Posted by: Joey Crawford | May 29, 2008 8:05 AM | Report abuse

They are lucky they even get foul calls. On that prison yard, there's never any fouls called. Hell, last week I got thrown to the ground and stomped on...nothing got called.

When your in the shower, a foul make take place, but I never get the calls!

Posted by: Prison Balls | May 29, 2008 8:41 AM | Report abuse

The Spurs have been the West representative for 3 of the 4 lowest rated Finals over the last 25 years. Excluding Jordan's Bulls championship years (when MJ's participation guaranteed high Finals ratings), the Lakers have been involved in the highest rated games, averaging over a 13 share. THE LEAGUE WILL ENSURE THAT THE LAKERS WILL BE IN THE FINALS.

Over those same 25 years, the Celtics have averaged a 14 share for their 4 Finals apperances. The league hasn't has a 14 share for a Final since MJ's Bulls were last there 10 years ago. In fact, 4 of the last five years had single digit shares. THE LEAGUE WILL ENSURE THAT THE CELTICS WILL BE IN THE FINALS.

Higher profile teams, more money for the Association. This game is a couple of notches above professional wrestling with the difference being that the moves aren't scripted. There's no doubt, though, that the outcomes are heavily influenced.

Posted by: mark | May 29, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

and yeah, the Association was also gonna make sure that the 'anointed one' (LeBron) advanced past a beaten up, star-depleted Wiz team.

Posted by: mark | May 29, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

There are 2 issues at play. First is that some calls are very subjective - agreed. But the second issue is that the "stars" of the NBA always get the lion's share of the benefit of that subjectivity.

You can say that LeBron didn't get a call at the end of game 5, but he shouldn't have b/c he drove the lane and initiated the contact with Songaila (which LeBron often does when he drives the lane and barges into people on the way). We are just so used to Lebron getting away with offensive fouls on his drives (or worse, getting the call on an offensive foul) that we've come to expect it. The way that the refs called that at the end of Game 5 is the way it should ALWAYS be called. The fact that LeBron and Brown reacted so incredulously shows the ingrained culture in the NBA that stars expect all the calls all the time, b/c they usually get them.


Posted by: p1funk | May 29, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Can we go back and correct ALL of the mistakes made in the last ten seconds of Game 4?

We'll start with the Fisher shot that hit the rim, bounced off Horry and went out of bounds.

Instead of (correctly) resetting the shot clock and giving the Lakers the ball which would have meant Kobe would have just held the ball and gone to the line with a chance to ice the game, they ruled that the ball didn't hit the rim. Hmmm, something in the Texas air that makes objects change direction for no reason?

Posted by: Nitpickers | May 29, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

More inconsistent calls/non calls last night. One of these: Pierce on defense pushed Hamilton with his belly, Rip swatted him away and Pierce over-acts and sort of stumbles back. Result - Rip got called for a foul. Rasheed complained to ref about it, saying Pierce pushed Hamilton (of course I don't know what he actually said), and result is Rasheed got a technical. That's a real bummer of a call. Sometimes these referees are stupid powermongers.

Posted by: rgz | May 29, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Bad and crooked officiating is going to damage the NBA in the same way that steroids damaged MLB.

Right now, the league is ignoring the officiating problem and trying to sweep it under the rug, and the media is playing along and letting the league get away with it. The same was true in the mid 90s regarding steroids in baseball.

Even after Donaghy, and many instances of obviously bad officiating affecting important playoff games and series, Mike Lee and other journalists are telling the fans to "move on."

The sports journalism establishment is just too conflicted. Individual journalists don't want to press David Stern and others on the officiating because they want to maintain access.

Partnerships at the corporate level reinforce this "see no evil" attitude. See ESPN partnering with the NBA to launch NBA-China.

Of course, once the other shoe drops, and we find out that a number of refs and possibly even players have been involved in fixing NBA games, the media will be happy to turn around and pounce on the league like a pack of hyenas. That's just how it works. It won't be long.

Posted by: Tom | May 29, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Bad and crooked officiating is going to damage the NBA in the same way that steroids damaged MLB.

Right now, the league is ignoring the officiating problem and trying to sweep it under the rug, and the media is playing along and letting the league get away with it. The same was true in the mid 90s regarding steroids in baseball.

Even after Donaghy, and many instances of obviously bad officiating affecting important playoff games and series, Mike Lee and other journalists are telling the fans to "move on."

The sports journalism establishment is just too conflicted. Individual journalists don't want to press David Stern and others on the officiating because they want to maintain access.

Partnerships at the corporate level reinforce this "see no evil" attitude. See ESPN partnering with the NBA to launch NBA-China.

Of course, once the other shoe drops, and we find out that a number of refs and possibly even players have been involved in fixing NBA games, the media will be happy to turn around and pounce on the league like a pack of hyenas. That's just how it works. It won't be long.

Posted by: Tom | May 29, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Joey Crawford.....The NBA doesn't call traveling...anyway kobe traveled about a minute before that and they didnt call it.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Missed call? Fine, but Crawford should get the royal boot for the rest of the playoffs.

Maybe the fix is on since the Suns got screwed a few seasons ago which favored the Spurs.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Great post Mark! don't normally agree with you but this one is a no brainer. All the NBA/ESPN has talked about since the KG and Pau Gasol trade is LAL/Celts final. The league will do everything possible to get these 2 teams to the finals.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Joey Crawford should never be able to ref a spurs game for the rest of his career. I don't care what anyone says he definitely holds a grudge against the spurs. He challenged tim duncan to a fight and threw him out for laughing and he wasn't even on the court. The league wants celtics/lakers and that is what the league will get. I will not be tunning in I can tell you that much

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

See this is the problem, the NBA execs know something stinks in Denmark, the journalists can smell it too, and the fans don't like it either. But until something hurts revenues, nobody is going to lift a finger to do anything about it. Fans aren't disgusted enough to stop attending games, or not watching games on TV. Sometimes the threat of a Senate investigation (in aid of legislation) can get things moving, but I doubt anything will happen in an election year.
Stern will keep pretending it's just a matter of referee training, players and coaches respecting calls, and fining anyone from any team who dares complain.

Posted by: rgz | May 29, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Instant Replay is the answer. Just like football, each team gets two challenges throughout the game. You lose the challenge, you lose a time out. There would have to be some rules built around what and when you could challenge but this would keep the refs honest.

But Stern would never go for this because he would lose control of having these games fixed.

Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Donaghy's my hero | May 29, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I heard that in order to make amends to the Spurs for their officiating malfeasance, the League Office decided to suspend Darius Songaila for the first game next season. However, they're withholding the official notification of player and team until a few hours before tip-off of the Wizards' 2008-2009 opener.

Posted by: Gazizza Dilsnoofus | May 29, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I also heard that Lebron James tripped walking down the stairs in his Cleveland home the other day. In accordance with league policy, the Wizards will be assessed a Flagrant three and Gilbert, Caron, and Antawn will be suspended for this incident during their opening game next season.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 29, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Using instant replay to judge fouls would be a terrible idea. I normally LOVE instant replay: Baseball needs it for homeruns; football needs it for fumbles, TDs, ball placement; basketball needs it for last second shots (not Flagrant 2 which is ridiculous idea in general).

And can all the people saying matches are fixed just shut up. Does David Stern want Lakers/ Celtics; of course he does just like 90% of America. Will Stern fix a match and risk the "image" of the league he cares so much about; not a chance. Last year when Stoudemire and Diaw walked 2 steps away from their bench Stern suspended them. If he "fixes" the finals then the Suns move on and Stoudemire/Diaw are not suspended.

Posted by: NFeKPo | May 29, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

How about spreading some of the love (aka blame)?

Derek Fisher needs to be called out for his bonehead play to jump on Barry with the fake anyway. Fisher, who's a veteran, should have known better and almost cost his team.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Can't really fault Fisher too much for getting up to contest the shot. Fisher's 6' 2" (if that), Barry's 6' 7" and had been red hot for the entire game. If he didn't get up to contest, Barry would have just shot over him and drained a game-winning three from straight on.

Posted by: kalorama | May 29, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

We should soon see if refs are told to call the game one way or another because Donaghy has nothing to lose now. And I'm sure the FBI will ask.

FBI: "Did you ever feel league pressure to call a game in favor of one team?"

Donaghy: "What do I get for answering that question?"

Posted by: NFeKPo | May 29, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Instant Replay is the answer. Just like football, each team gets two challenges throughout the game. You lose the challenge, you lose a time out. There would have to be some rules built around what and when you could challenge but this would keep the refs honest.

But Stern would never go for this because he would lose control of having these games fixed.

Just my 2 cents.

Posted by: Donaghy's my hero | May 29, 2008 12:03 PM

How about you keep your old, dirty, rusty pennies (thoughts) to yourself. That's a ter-RIB-le idea.

Take those two pennies and buy a clue.

Posted by: I don't carry change | May 29, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"Can't really fault Fisher too much for getting up to contest the shot. Fisher's 6' 2" (if that), Barry's 6' 7" and had been red hot for the entire game. If he didn't get up to contest, Barry would have just shot over him and drained a game-winning three from straight on.

Posted by: kalorama | May 29, 2008 12:39 PM "

I think any coach out there would tell their player not to foul a player while dude is attempting to shoot. It's one thing playing tough D with your hands up, versus lunging at the guy and biting at the fake. Fisher may be only 6-2, but he's got a decent wingspan.

If you're going to foul him anyway, you're better off fouling him before he shoots, rather than potentially giving him the "and 1."

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 2:28 PM | Report abuse

He did foul him before he shot. Barry wasn't in the act of shooting when the contact occurred, which is one of the reasons he didn't get the call. If a foul had been called it would have been two shots because they were in the penalty, not an in-the-act foul on a three.

Besides, Fisher wasn't even supposed to guarding Barry. Vujacic was the one guarding him, but he got picked off and didn't hustle back.

Posted by: kalorama | May 29, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

"He did foul him before he shot. Barry wasn't in the act of shooting when the contact occurred, which is one of the reasons he didn't get the call. If a foul had been called it would have been two shots because they were in the penalty, not an in-the-act foul on a three.

Besides, Fisher wasn't even supposed to guarding Barry. Vujacic was the one guarding him, but he got picked off and didn't hustle back.

Posted by: kalorama | May 29, 2008 3:13 PM "

As I said before, it was definitely not a foul in the act of shooting. Fisher bit on the fake, lunged up, and then crashed on top of Barry...thus fouling him. When you have physical contact on a player like how Fisher did on Barry, that's a clear foul.

I think they were in the penalty, so that should have been a trip to the foul line for 2 shots.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Check out pg. 43, Section I under "Personal Fouls." It clearly describes what happened to Barry.

http://www.nba.com/media/rule_book_2007-08.pdf

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

When you have physical contact on a player like how Fisher did on Barry, that's a clear foul.

I think they were in the penalty, so that should have been a trip to the foul line for 2 shots.

Which is basically repeating what I said.

"As I said before, it was definitely not a foul in the act of shooting."

That's not what you said. In fact, you said the exact opposite:

"I think any coach out there would tell their player not to foul a player while dude is attempting to shoot. "

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 2:28 PM

Posted by: kalorama | May 29, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

"Which is basically repeating what I said.

"As I said before, it was definitely not a foul in the act of shooting."

That's not what you said. In fact, you said the exact opposite:

"I think any coach out there would tell their player not to foul a player while dude is attempting to shoot. "

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 2:28 PM"

Didn't repeat what you said. I said what I said. I don't repeat other people's words.

Hmmm, let me try to figure out how in the world the two statements that you copied from me mean the "exact opposite..."

The first statement says that Fisher's foul on Barry was NOT when Barry was in the act of shooting.

The second statement says that any coach would tell their player NOT to foul a player while dude is attempting a shot.

In fact, since you're selectively picking statements to boost your argument, what you missed also was "If you're going to foul him anyway, you're better off fouling him before he shoots, rather than potentially giving him the "and 1."

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 2:28 PM "

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 29, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

What about that April 15 Cavs-Sixers game where the refs awarded the foul (AND the points) to the Travs AFTER the buzzer had sounded? That call stole homecourt from the Zards and gave it to the Travs, and we all know how important homecourt was in THAT series. Now the NBA comes out and says the no-call (against the Spurs) was the right call at the end of the game. So the NBA displays reverse logic in reasoning the calls in these two cases; the only consistent outcome between the two situations being that the higher-ratings, higher-revenue team was favored by the refs. My main point here is to point out that OF COURSE the refs know to fix the games in the NBA's favor. My belief that the NBA is a joke is renewed, over and over. Plus, I can't believe that Michael Lee really believes that ratings and money don't influence the calls. He's a reporter, he sees the games all the time, and should know better.

Posted by: DC | May 29, 2008 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Very obvious that the league wants a Lakers-Celtics final and the officials have missed or made enough controversial calls in the conference finals to ensure this happens. I'm a Lakers fan but it was a travesty that there was no foul called on Fischer on Barry's final shot. The Lakers would still have won the series in 7, but this non-call sealed the Spurs fate.

It's gotten to the point that I have no respect for the NBA, which is a scripted reality show, OR David Stern who is more concerned with cutting deals to help give more publicity to the league. The NFL has never lost sight of the fact that their product is ultimately what attracts the fans and have instituted rule changes and instant replay in an attempt to ensure that games are played and officiated on a level playing field.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 30, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Obviously Kobe has a lot of appeal, but I think a Boston-Spurs series would have been great.

Posted by: DC Man88 | May 30, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

The game in the NBA & NHL , would be som much enjoyable without the 2 different foul rules for regular & playoff games.

Posted by: Victor | June 2, 2008 12:57 AM | Report abuse

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