The other day I had a dream. I happened to be walking behind an NBA referee, and he dropped his rule book on the ground. I opened it up to Rule 12, Part B, Section 1. It read:
a. A player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, forearm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal. Contact that results in the re-routing of an opponent is a foul which must be called immediately.
b. Contact initiated by the defensive player guarding a player with the ball is not legal. This contact includes, but is not limited to, forearm, hands, or body check.
In handwriting, the official had scribbled something in the ledger that said “Ignore – Final Two Minutes.” I immediately woke up and the world made sense for a second, until I realized that was all a dream.
Referees try not to call fouls in the last minutes of a game. I can only guess this is because they don’t want to be the one to decide the fate of the game. No one wants to be remembered for giving Larry Johnson a four point play, although I highly doubt Jess Kersey is a household name. In the above example, the player is remembered for his accomplishment, not the official who made the call. If the whistle is blown, no one will blame the official if there was a foul on the play. What’s not debated is whether L.J. was fouled or not. What is debated is if he should have been granted the continuation. Often it seems that the referees are reluctant to blow the whistle at all. The end of a close NBA game sometime resembles the rough parks in NYC, where the motto “no blood, no foul” is taken seriously.
There are certain game ending plays that I’ll always have in my mind as questionable, because of the possibility that a foul (or two) might have went uncalled. Charles Smith’s blocked layups (4 cleanly shots blocked?), Reggie Miller’s 8 points in 16 seconds(did he push the inbounding player to the ground?), Jordan’s shot against Utah (did he use his left hand to push Byron Scott aside?), etc. I’m not saying there is evidence to fully prove there were fouls during these times, but I can question the validity of these plays because of laissez faire approach taken by NBA referees in the closing moments.
These playoffs have given me at least two more moments to burn in my memory regarding last minute no-calls. First is Mark Madsen trying to foul Shaq. Mark wanted a foul. Shaq wanted a foul. The referee wanted to hide under his bed. Mark Madsen figured that hugging Diesel wasn’t enough, so he took Shaq’s arm and placed it around his neck. Still no foul. I think Minnesota should add Tracy Morgan to the roster, to give shack another spanking.
The second is Reggie Miller at the end of the Pacers/Pistons game. We’ve all seen it a million times. Miller pump fakes. The defender jumps. Miller jumps into the defender. Foul shots ensue. Apparently the referee didn’t feel that body to body contact was enough to call a foul. You can question whether this common Reggie tactic is a foul, since Miller is jumping into his defender. However if this play happened in the first quarter of a regular season game, I’m sure Reggie would get the call. That’s the whole point. What is a foul at one point of the game, should be a foul for the entire game. Referees need to be consistent with the rules right up to the very end of the game.