- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Ralph Nader, a low-scoring player with the Green Party, sees a man on the NBA's grassy knoll.
In the interest of fair play, Nader is urging the NBA to review the officiating in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Kings.
In particular, Nader noted the absence of a whistle after Kobe Bryant's elbow landed on Mike Bibby's nose in the final seconds of the game.
Among those in Nader's camp, this momentary bout of blindness was the final proof of a game-long bias that favored the Lakers.
In this theory, the powers that be in Manhattan, the basketball cartel of David Stern and NBC executives, sent an urgent appeal to the referees after crunching Sacramento's small-market numbers.
The missive read: "Be kind to the Lakers in Game 6."
It resulted in a significant discrepancy at the foul line, although not as significant as the theorists would have you believe.
The Lakers wound up with 15 more free throw attempts than the Kings, 40-25, partly because the Kings had to foul at the end and partly because Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant are a handful to defend. O'Neal and Bryant took 28 of the Lakers' 40 free throw attempts, hardly an aberration for the two best players in the NBA.
The Bryant-Bibby entanglement at the end also passed the smell test. Most referees are reluctant to change the course of a game in the final seconds. Is that thinking right? Maybe. Maybe not. It is a judgment call, like so many elements involving a typical NBA game.
It also could be argued that Bibby sustained the elbow only because of his failure to allow Bryant sufficient maneuvering room. Replays showed that Bibby, as he tumbled away from the blow, was hugging Bryant around the waist.
What would have been the right call there, if a call had to be made? Not to spoil the conspiracy party, but it would not have been a stretch to call a blocking foul on Bibby.
To look at it another way, it was Bibby who had every reason to bend the rules, to initiate contact of some sort. His team was down, and the Lakers were making their procession to the free throw line. The Kings needed something dramatic to happen: a steal, an unusual call, some misses at the foul line.
None of it came to be, the Lakers won 106-102, and Kings coach Rick Adelman, in his own way, initiated the conspiracy talk afterward.
"It's a shame, a shame," he said. "Obviously, they got the game called the way they wanted it called."
Adelman made no such objection after Game 5, won by the Kings on Bibby's last-second shot. He did not think it was odd at all that O'Neal was limited to 32 minutes because of foul trouble, earned only one free throw attempt and fouled out with 3:22 left.
Of all the statistical developments in the Lakers-Kings series, O'Neal's one free throw attempt in Game 5 was the most implausible.
Yet Nader and his kind insist there was a Vince McMahon-like quality to it all, a script.
The closed-door manipulation was so powerful that it apparently goaded the Kings into all kinds of alarming misfires in Game 7. The Kings, one of the top shooting teams in the NBA, missed 14 of 30 free throw attempts and converted only two of their 20 3-point tries.
No, the Kings did not have to be all that special in Game 7, just ordinary. As it turned out, ordinary would have put them in the NBA Finals.
Perhaps crying helps it go down easier for the Kings and their supporters.
"Unless the NBA orders a review of this game's officiating, perceptions and suspicions, however presently absent any evidence, will abound," Nader wrote in his letter to the NBA.
There actually is plenty of evidence, if anyone bothers to check Game 5 and Game 7 in relation to Game 6.
If the NBA's higher-ups orchestrated the outcome in desperation of the Los Angeles market, they went about it in curious fashion.
You allow O'Neal to be limited to one free throw attempt before he fouls out in Game 5. You ignore Bryant's elbow to Bibby's nose in Game 6 and let the Lakers live well at the foul line. You then order the Kings to have a bad case of nerves in Game 7.
Sounds like a plan.

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