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Thread: Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

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    Default Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

    http://www.nypost.com/sports/16652.htm

    OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT

    February 27, 2004 -- FOLLOWING a game in New Jersey at last season's Finals, The Mysterious J. was introduced to Jack Nies. "I never heard of him," she said later, taking me by surprise. After all, Nies and Dick Bavetta, at 66, are the NBA's oldest active referees.

    "He must be one of the better ones," The Mysterious One remarked.

    I thought so, too. Until Wednesday night, anyway, which only goes to show we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, some are conspicuously more harmful than others.

    With less than a half-minute remaining Wednesday, Nuggets up two and in possession following an offensive rebound by Carmelo Anthony, Nies teamed up with Jess (Larry Johnson's court-appointed guardian angel) Kersey and Michael Henderson to lavish the Lakers with a chance to confiscate an undeserved victory at the Soda Machine, er, Pepsi Center.

    Naturally, L.A. capitalized, 112-111, relying at crunch time as always, on Luke Walton's cunning penetration/pristine passing and the outpost accuracy of Kareem Rush.

    Otherwise, the whistling-while-they-foul-up crew would only be receiving a glossed-over dishonorable mention on the east coast and a covert fine by boss man, Stu Jackson.

    Instead, the wrong team won, which was undeniable to one and all . . . minus three. The refs maintain their lapse in judgment was "consensual."

    Instead of simply admitting Henderson's inadvertent tweet was an honest mistake (there had been no 24-second violation; Andre Miller's corner jumper drew iron) and giving the ball back to the Nuggets, the motley crew decided a jump ball (Shaq was allowed to steal it) was the appropriate course of action; Jackson concurs, which as usual makes no sense whatsoever.

    Instead, the reverberations, repercussions (the 32-27 Nuggets now have dropped six of ten in their battle with the on-rushing 29-28 Blazers for the West's eighth playoff spot) and treacherous current of unrest are massive.

    Yesterday's public disclosure by Jackson that at least one ref screwed up cannot diminish the damage to the declining reputation of the officiating corps. As a whole, their competence has never been more under attack on a daily basis. Over the last 35 years, I cannot recall so many abrasive complaints by executives, coaches and players. And it's not as if the frequent fines (minnow bites compared to what these people bank) by the league office are about to silence the across-the-board outcry.

    OK, so Jackson uncharacteristically confessed an injustice occurred. Good for him! For the good of the league and its credibility, it was a righteous message that needed to be made. Now, what? What benefit do the Nuggets gain from that acknowledgment?

    OK, Jeff Bzdelik and Marcus Camby probably won't get well-earned suspensions for their uncivilized post-game behavior. That would be big, definitely a step in the right direction.

    Still, should Denver get eliminated from the playoffs by a single game, how does the league intend to appease the Nuggets and their fans? What's David Stern's game-plan? How 'bout replaying the final 27 seconds or so from the point of blunder? How 'bout a do-over from scratch? You've heard of a make-up call? How 'bout a make-up game? Just don't tell us which one.

    Better yet, how 'bout weeding out at least one-third of the ineptitude by returning to a two-ref system? It worked for me. One less decision-maker. One less guy to get in the way on an already overcrowded surface. One less busy body to infringe on a partner's territory which too often leads to late calls, no calls or out-of-position calls. In other words, one less inflated ego to deal with and muck things up.

    Better yet, how 'bout eradicating refs altogether? Let players call their own fouls? They can't do any worse. There can't be more confusion or hostility.

    "You know the refs are going to hurt you at some point during the game, maybe even over a long stretch," a Midwest Division team president groaned to me over the phone. "The most you can hope for is they don't decide the game. But, if you watch the game at all, you know those expectations stopped being realistic long before last night."

    As long as we're evaluating right and wrong, Kobe Bryant can only hope all future forays into Colorado are adjudicated with the same minimal attention to detail.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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    Default Re: Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

    I can forgive the sensationalism, the incorrect "scoops," the tabloid-style basketball journalism. Hey, nobody's perfect.

    What puzzles me is that the guy just isn't that great of a writer, period. It's like he's not really trying...

    Half the people on this board could write more interesting, insightful stuff than Vescey.

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    Default Re: Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

    I can forgive the sensationalism, the incorrect "scoops," the tabloid-style basketball journalism. Hey, nobody's perfect.

    What puzzles me is that the guy just isn't that great of a writer, period. It's like he's not really trying...

    Half the people on this board could write more interesting, insightful stuff than Vescey.
    One could argue that the New York Post has never made a virtue of hiring people who were, you know, good writers.

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    Default Re: Vecsey on Officiating

    Jess (Larry Johnson's court-appointed guardian angel) Kersey

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    Default Re: Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

    I forgot to post Vecsey's Sunday article on the same topic...

    February 29, 2004 -- TYPICALLY, a number of NBA games each season are decided for the worst on account of a bad call by a referee.

    This season is no different: Relying strictly on my own two eyes, I can cite at least five verdicts that went the wrong way because an official blundered, including Michael Henderson's itchy shot-clock whistle from out of position and his partner's inept incapacity to straighten out the situation at the tail end of the Lakers' tarnished one-point win over the Nuggets.

    Don't hold me to this, but unless David Stern can figure out how to remove humans from the equation, it seems there's always going to be a certain amount of human error.

    If cagey coaches and near-perfect players (and surgeons) are known to make an "occasional" critical mistake when the atmospheric pressure gets extreme, why would we expect a referee to be faultless under identical conditions?

    Especially one who's in the early developmental stage (two seasons) of his NBA career!

    Yet, for some reason, the league is going out of its normally clandestine way to publicly flog one of its own. For some reason, the commissioner strongly urged Stu Jackson to denounce Henderson's snap judgment as prickly poor, strip him of his striped shirt for three games and order him to appear on Stern's New York carpet Tuesday morning.

    Contrary to the referees union, Henderson has not been suspended (he's not being docked any pay; fine money is another story), at least not "officially."

    Even if the league were so inclined, its agreement with the union stringently forbids such a step in this case. Refs may be suspended for, among other things, a misapplication of the rules, but definitely not for poor judgment. If that were the case, there wouldn't be an employable ref on earth.

    Nevertheless, the league is attempting to say Henderson's slip-up is far shoddier than poor judgment. That it's beneath and beyond excusable, every-day breakdowns such as misidentifying a critical 3-pointer as a two, or voiding a game-winning shot on a charge when it was indeed a block. That it doesn't come close to comparing to missing a call or imagining one. What an outrageously irrational stance! For some reason, the crucifixion is on.

    Maybe it's because Henderson is said to be the league's lowest-ranking ref and the time might be ripe to notify him his floor days are numbered. Maybe it's because Henderson supposedly disobeyed instructions given prior to Andre Miller's jumper with two ticks left on the 24-second timepiece. Supposedly, crew chief Jack Nies told him any subsequent shot-clock violation wasn't his responsibility; his sight lines were clearly unsatisfactory.

    At the same time, Nies and Jess Kersey, who, by the way, have 60 years of pro experience between them, totally mishandled the touchy situation following Henderson's "inadvertent" call, it says here. When informed Miller's shot had clipped the side ring, Henderson was deflated but undaunted. He supposedly told his partners the Nuggets should retain possession since he didn't blow his whistle until after Carmelo Anthony got the rebound.

    That's exactly what I saw and heard. This was the sequence-shot, controlled rebound, whistle. Not shot, whistle and rebound. Or shot, uncontrolled rebound and whistle, as the league claims. I've since talked extensively to two veteran observers of such bang-bang stuff who either watched the game and replay live, or zeroed in on the chaos on tape; they embrace my viewpoint.

    Jackson, on the other hand, bluntly stated Nies and Kersey did the right thing by resolving the disagreement with a jump ball, which Shaq is licensed to steal. As usual, Stu doesn't have the foggiest clue what's going on.

    Be that as it may, I've yet to provide the real reason Jackson hunted down Henderson on his way to work in Seattle for Friday night's game vs. the Suns and brought him to justice.

    You see, there's a conspiracy theory that has gained dangerous momentum over the last few years that the league will do anything in its power to make sure the Lakers play on national TV in the Finals. You know very well that's the expletive-deleted message Nuggets owner E. Stanley transmitted to Stern. It's a distasteful perception that needs to be quickly exterminated.

    In other words, it's (over)time to nail a scapegoat to the cross. Who more convenient than Henderson?

    P.S. It's getting so bad, Glen Sather is laughing at the Knicks; now certifiably mediocre (10-10, five straight losses) since Lenny Wilkens was exhumed. The bad news is, their road trip ends today at Denver; there's no reason to believe the refs are going to mess over the Nuggets in this one.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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    Default Re: Vecsey on Officiating [Updated with an article from Sam Smith]

    And this pile of crap from Sam Smith in the Tribune ...

    Give referees more respect
    Sam Smith

    February 29, 2004

    I know a friend of Spike Lee's.

    I am not necessarily proud of this, and it's hardly name-dropping anymore. But we were talking one day about all these celebrity hangers-on at NBA games, and I mentioned Lee and his pop-up courtside seat at Knicks games.

    "Spike knows the game," his friend insisted.

    "Sure," I doubted.

    "He yells `foul' all the time," his friend explained.

    There is a message for most coaches, players and fans: Just shut up.

    The officials who referee NBA games are the best in all of sport. Just who would you like to see replace them? College referees? Part-time officials like in the NFL? Out of shape baseball umpires? Some soccer ref sticking a red index card in someone's face?

    The day they made contact acceptable in the NBA was the day they made the sport impossible to officiate.

    The officials in the NBA get the calls right a heck of a lot more often than, say, players make a jump shot.

    This personal rant comes about because of the mini-protest NBA officials made Friday night for the suspension of second-year referee Michael Henderson. At the 10 NBA games Friday night, the refs wore their shirts inside out and wore Henderson's No. 62 in solidarity.

    Henderson was the referee in the Denver-Los Angeles Lakers game Wednesday who called a 24-second violation with the Nuggets leading 111-109 in the last seconds. The referees huddled and agreed Andre Miller's shot grazed the rim so there shouldn't have been a whistle against Denver.

    Rules call for a jump ball, which the Lakers won. Kareem Rush then won the game with a three-pointer that sent the fading Nuggets into convulsions. They see their first postseason appearance in nine years slipping away. If they miss the playoffs by one game . . .

    Lakers coach Phil Jackson, not surprisingly, said the ball did miss the rim so it really was a violation.

    "[League officials] weren't at the game, we were," Jackson said. "The shot didn't hit the rim. Kobe [Bryant] jumped up and knocked the ball into the rim. I think Henderson made the right call."

    The real surprise was that NBA Senior Vice President Stu Jackson admitted the call was incorrect. Then the referees' association revealed Henderson was suspended, resulting in the protest from referees over the chilling effect such an action might have.

    Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said there would be disciplinary action against those referees taking part in Friday's protest (there were none Saturday) and Commissioner David Stern issued a statement Saturday reading: "Last night's display was woefully inconsistent with the professionalism with which NBA officials normally conduct themselves. There is nothing more to say at this time."

    There probably will be plenty, however, after the season when the referees' collective bargaining agreement expires.

    Yes, it seems there has been an increasing amount of angst over NBA officiating this season.

    Shaquille O'Neal was suspended for a rage on live TV--after the Lakers had won the game. We have seen the normally placid Rick Carlisle and Ray Allen ejected and fined in disputes with officials.

    Veteran coach Hubie Brown raged last week during a wild game during which more than 60 fouls were called. There have been some were bad calls, like the one in which Chauncey Billups had a winning basket waved off last month because of an offensive foul call.

    Yes, officials make plenty of mistakes, and some have annoying attitudes, like Steve Javie, who once ejected a mascot. Some have short fuses, like Joey Crawford, who has been close to ejecting whole teams. And some are a little too theatrical, like Dick Bavetta, father of the run-and-skip charge call.

    But think about what your job would be like if you were doing it front of 18,000 people--or 600 if you're in Atlanta--and then have to watch a replay of it while being critiqued.

    There are NBA observers at every game to monitor the officiating. Then the league analyzes game tapes afterward. Reports are filed back to the referees on every questioned call.

    I sat with a referee after the controversial Game 6 of the Lakers-Kings Western Conference finals in 2002. He admitted the crew seemed to make several bad calls. Refs know mistakes are part of the game.

    But since the NBA instituted instant replay for buzzer shots, the refs never have been the reason for a loss. If the Kings made their regular-season percentage of free throws they would have won that series.

    When Nuggets coaches and players calmed down last week, Marcus Camby, noting a Nuggets' double-digit fourth quarter lead, conceded: "You can't say the refs took it from us. The game was in our control."

    So you try to decide when Shaquille O'Neal is fouling or being fouled when "some" contact is permitted under NBA rules. Sure, there are inequities. Rookies don't seem to get the benefit veterans do, and stars get more freedom.

    But as the great philosopher Phil Jackson once pointed out: "The pretty girl gets kissed." Not sure if he read that in Kierkegaard or Spinoza.

    But as a philosophy, mine is "Everyone shut up and just play."

    Copyright 2004, The Chicago Tribune
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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