- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

The compelling nature of the NBA Playoffs has been tempered by the punitively obsessed Stu Jackson and the high number of officiating crews gone blind.

The suspension of Jason Terry in Game 6 allowed the Spurs to step back from the precipice of elimination against the Mavericks.

The referees missed Terry’s punch to the nether regions belonging to Michael Finley near the end of Game 5, which maintained their record of consistency.

The referees remain the determinant element of the playoffs, programmed to undermine a team’s solid work with an errant whistle or no whistle at all if the culprit is regal enough.

Jackson figured the referees owed the Spurs at least one game, possibly two, considering their shabby work near the end of Games 3 and 4.

That is the only justification behind his decision to suspend Terry, whose so-called punch was surely lacking. Finley did not double over in pain from the blow, which is a fairly common reaction of the afflicted.

Instead, Finley rose to his feet in a lather, hardly pained, just agitated by the threat to his manhood.

Terry’s indecency hardly was in the spirit of the bedroom-like maneuverings of Reggie Evans around the stringy-haired Chris Kaman.

Groping an opponent while jostling for rebound position was believed to be the first X-rated act ever on an NBA floor.

Yet the egregious actions of Evans merited only a $10,000 fine from the NBA’s deportment czar.

That is $10,000 for sexual harassment compared to a one-game suspension for a punch that did not amount to squat.

So a Game 7 between the Mavericks and Spurs is necessary, as is the requisite close-up shot of the elfin Eva Longoria, whose well-coiffed head is larger than her body.

Jackson, in being ever busy implementing fines, suspensions and admonishments, has come to be the ultimate intangible of the playoffs and certainly no defender of free speech.

In Jackson’s world, speech can be incredibly expensive, especially if the speech concerns the incompetence of the referees.

The referees are about on par with a Ben Wallace free throw attempt, and that perhaps is being unkind to a Wallace free throw attempt.

The NBA used to believe in the benefit of the athletes deciding the outcome of the games.

But that previously sound belief system has been surrendered to Jackson and the officiating crews this spring.

The games too often now are decided by whim and decree.

The Mavericks-Spurs series reflects the new view, disagreeable as it is.

However it does down tonight, the loser is certain to feel victimized.

At least the Pistons-Cavaliers series merely showcased the gag reflex of the Pistons.

It was impossible to cite the wrongdoing of the referees in a series stuffed with an abundance of turnovers, missed shots and poor decision-making in the fourth quarter of Games 2-7.

It was neglectful basketball, hard to watch, as the Pistons outlasted their shaky nerves to win the series.

It was the sort of basketball reminiscent of the clutch-and-grab basketball of the ‘90s, interminable to a fault.

It featured the inner buffoon of Rasheed Wallace, who never has met a referee who could satisfy his double standards.

He asks for fairness from those he rebukes with scowls, protests and schoolyard language.

He would have a case if he did not make it with bile.

Not too long ago, coaches routinely questioned the motives of referees between games. No one, except possibly the referees, took the questioning too seriously.

Now Jackson is poised after each game to parse the comments of the coaches and players.

It is a good thing he was not around in 1984, when Kevin McHale went goon on Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the NBA Finals and changed the series.

McHale’s clothesline tackle would have resulted in a two-game suspension in today’s NBA, and that memorable seven-game series would have ended up being so much less than it was.

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