- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

CLEVELAND — NBA commissioner David Stern attended last night’s game at Quicken Loans Arena and was asked about the criticism being directed at officials, especially in this series. He gets asked a lot about the officials.

“We could make the officiating perfect,” he said. “We would need four more officials, five more cameras and we’d play seven hour games,” he said. “Stop each time. Failing that, the course we’ve elected to do is play the game in something in the neighborhood of two hours, 20 minutes, accepting a margin of error because the officials are human.”

But that doesn’t mean the NBA will tolerate caustic comments. Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal were fined $25,000 and $15,000, respectively, and some coaches have come close to getting fined.

Once upon a time, said Stern, the NBA collectively would grin and bear such inflammatory, subversive talk as NBC rigging the playoffs to favor certain teams.

“In the old days,” Stern recalled, “we used to say, ‘These guys are crazy, but it’s the playoffs so let’s give them some slack.’ ”

But Stern said he came to realize the effect “such corrosive talk [has] on fan confidence, and this year we decided that limits have to be enforced.”

That also applies to physical contact. The latest player to be disciplined for overdoing it was Raja Bell of the Phoenix Suns, who was suspended for clotheslining the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during a game Tuesday. Stern said he wholeheartedly agreed with the decision of Stu Jackson, who enforces such penalties.

“I must tell you, there was no basketball played there,” Stern said of the play. “You could tell me about the manliness of the act, and I would argue that point. It was a very unmanly act.”

He’s no addict

One thing Gilbert Arenas wants everyone to know is that he’s not addicted to online poker.

About two week ago a story ran that said that Arenas played online poker during halftime. Well, he does, but he’s not playing Wi-Fi poker. Not at all.

“Everybody keeps saying that it’s online, but it’s not,” Arenas said before last night’s Game 5 playoff game in Cleveland. “It’s a DVD, that’s it. In fact, I don’t even play online.”

Arenas was stunned to hear that golfer John Daly has a gambling addiction and reportedly has lost more than $50 million gambling. Also yesterday, TNT analyst Charles Barkley told ESPN he estimated he had lost about “$10 million” gambling in his lifetime.

“You know, that’s just crazy,” Arenas said. “I can’t stand to lose 20 bucks when I’m playing. I’ll get real feisty, tear up the cards or something.”

Hayes the spectator

For the second time in his career, Wizards forward Jarvis Hayes is watching the playoffs from the bench, nursing the same injury that kept him out of the playoffs last season — a broken kneecap.

Hayes has played in just 75 of a possible regular-season 164 games the last two years.

“It was tough missing the regular season, both this year and last year,” Hayes said. “But honestly, this is even tougher. This is the second year in a row that we’ve made the playoffs, and again I can’t play.

“Man, I do everything with these guys. But when it’s time to go out there and play I just can’t be a part of it. That hurts. It’s gotten to the point where I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in the last two years.”

Hayes said he plans to start running on the knee in early June.

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