Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Fix Is (Still) In

So I was watching Outside the Lines on ESPN and they were showing clips of the Tim Donaghy interview. At the conclusion, they made mention of a poll running on ESPN.com, where the question was posed, “How will Tim Donaghy’s claims influence how you watch NBA games.”

And the possible responses were: A) Will never view games the same way or B) No, influence, he isn’t credible.

My immediate reaction was, where’s C) It confirms something I knew innately to be true and won’t change a gosh-darned thing about how I watch NBA games. Why isn’t that a possible poll choice, ESPN.com?

Does anyone on this forum really think games are officiated fairly? Does anyone doubt that since the dawn of time, superstars (whether it’s Kobe, or Magic or Michael, or Larry or Dr. J or Hakeem or Shaq or LeBron or any of the pantheon of individuals who can be readily identified by their first name only) have gotten and will continue to get the calls. Now, the majority of my NBA-gazing is occupied by Nix games, but over the last 25 (gulp) years, I can say that our boys have always gotten hosed by the refs (the Hue Hollins call in game 5 in the ’94 semis v. the Bulls being the exception that proves the rule. But then again, his royal Nike-peddlingness was swatting the horsehide that summer, so maybe it isn’t an exception after all.)

In my early years of fandom, I keenly recall staring dumbly at Channel 9 (we didn’t have cable) and being utterly unable to fathom why Kevin McHale was allowed to use those ultra-sharp elbows of his to whack away at Pat Cummings, Ken “The Animal” Bannister, Louie Orr and others of their ilk with impunity whilst any mere mortal (see above) who dared fart in Bird’s general direction was immediately showered with whistles and a series of arcane/disco-like gestures from the refs. Even at that early age, I could tell that some players/teams were favored for reasons at that time, seemed beyond me. After all, I loved Mike Newlin. Why did the refs seem to hate him so much?

So this afternoon on the teevee, when Donaghy said that he was able to predict/bet on games with 75-80% accuracy simply because he knew who favored/loathed which players, my first thought was, “Duh! Of course you can. If you’re in the locker room, chewing the fat with the other refs, of course you’re going to hear who hates Rasheed Wallace or who loves Mike Fratello’s teams. (What that’s about I’ll never know. Possibly there’s a rogue ref who just loves the movie, “Hoosiers,” or something and pines for a return to those days of yore.) When you combine that with the unstated (or secretly stated) mandate to build up/market individual talents that Stern instituted to promote the league during the financially problematic years pre-Bird/Magic/Jordan, it’s clear how one could make a crapload of cash betting on the NBA.”

It’s one of the things that actually, in my own perverse kink, leads me to prefer watching b-ball to the Jets or the Mets (Yes, I know. I’ve really picked some winners there). I know that it’s not a level playing field and that seems to me to be a far more apt parallel to the world at large than the pristine, pastoral, Jeffersonian/democratic ideal (pre-‘Roids) presented by MLB or the power/precision, crypto-fascist, ground acquisition/military conquest paradigm put forth by the NFL. In both cases, while there are certainly times that I’ll fling inanimate objects and howl in horror at a botched call, for the most part, the refs/umps do a good job and I never get the impression that the game is in the bag for a particular team and/or player.

But, if I was the kind of individual who believed that the world was for the most part a fair and just place, I’m sure I’d be out there painting my face and clutching a Bud more often. But I don’t.

I’m a New Yorker. This is New York. We know that the fix is in. Solving that wholly unsolvable problem is far less important than making sure we’ve got the inside dope/skinny and can profit accordingly.

It’s why it’s so essential that Walsh is able to snag a LeBron or Dwyane. Not only because they are supreme talents, but because having a superstar who gets the benefit of the doubt is the best way to win a title over the last 30 years in the NBA. [Ed's note: Also LeBron or Wade provide a little more production than say Jared Jeffries or Wilson Chandler.]

Our one chance at a super-duper star, Patrick Ewing was never qualified to join the first-name only club. I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because some unseen force wanted him to be Bill Russell 2.0 and he wasn’t. Maybe because all the grunts and the profuse sweating made him lack the grace and/or effortlessness that true stars seem to possess. It never seemed easy for our Patrick. I mean, he worked like a mofo for every basket/rebound/block he ever got but he never made the unbelievable play that simultaneously seemed routine. And while he was allowed to take an extra step or two when he rolled to the middle to unleash that trusty jump hook of his, because his archetype was that of the working-class hero, he was never anointed by the refs to the degree that would have/could have pushed those Riley/Van Gundy era teams over the top. To whit: If Jordan had strayed a few steps off the bench in ’97 do you think there’s any way he’d have been suspended for game 6? No way. Ain’t gonna happen.

So while Stern frets about the perception/bottom line of his beloved league as Timmy D the canary keeps singing his song, were he to seek my council, I’d say, relax Dave! We real fans get it. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Say no more.

65 comments on “The Fix Is (Still) In

  1. DS

    “the Hue Hollins call in game 5 in the ’94 semis v. the Bulls being the exception that proves the rule.”

    Don’t forget LJ’s 4 point play.

  2. GAx

    “Don’t forget LJ’s 4 point play.”

    I will swear that that was a legit whistle ’til the day I die. Antonio Davis bumped him just before LJ jumped for his shot. If you still don’t agree, than let’s just say it’s karma for Reggie Miller not getting called for the foul when he shoved Greg Anthony down to free himself during his magical 8-point run.

    And you suck at broadcasting, Miller!

  3. jon abbey

    “It’s why it’s so essential that Walsh is able to snag a LeBron or Dwyane.”

    this 180 from your inane article of a month ago (“An Open Letter to LeBron”) with no acknowledgement of your earlier position qualifies you to work at one of the local papers, congratulations!

    the game 6 against Indiana that allowed NY to make the Finals back in the day was one of the most unfairly reffed games I’ve ever seen (in NY’s favor), up there with the Sacramento/LA and Miami/Dallas series. I watched it a second time soon after just to count the bad calls, and it was something like 30-3 in favor of NY. no wonder Allan Houston went nuts, Indiana wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near him without being whistled.

  4. rrude

    Hi fellas, been enjoying the smart conversation for a while and finally felt encouraged to join in.

    It’s not possible to expect total objectivity from refs and there’s so many aspects of basketball in general that are really judgment calls, or where the rules are overlooked or interpreted in different ways. The recent change to the traveling rule is just one example. There are few tasks given to officials across the four major sports as fuzzy as calling fouls and travels can be in the NBA. (balls and strikes in baseball, pass interference in football might be good examples from other sports).

    Add to this that refs are human beings, and wouldn’t you just expect the sort of biases Donaghy cites? I guess I am just agreeing with Silverman’s option C). I know this sort of thing goes on, it has all along and it’s just a part of the game.

    This brings in another element of chemistry regarding players (and coaches). Some players have better chemistry, not just with different teammates, but with different refs as well. Call it charisma, personality or just being polite. Maybe being a top player influences it as well. But it suggests that there’s value to being a good sportsman on the court beyond what goes on between the players and coaches.

    Obviously if these sorts of biases go too far, it does undermine the integrity of the game. But since it’s unavoidable to some degree, we need to acknowledge it and move on. Maybe instead of denying it, the league needs to do a better job of tracking it and deciding when it’s a problem. Maybe some players and coaches need to learn how to work better with others.

    And it is one of the things about the NBA that is different from other sports, individual personalities are a huge part of what happens on the court. This turns off some folks I know, but it also is part of the appeal for many others.

  5. Z

    “Some players have better chemistry, not just with different teammates, but with different refs as well.”

    I remember Pat Riley made Anthony Mason learn all the refs first names one off-season. Not sure if it had a statistical impact, but that’s one of the little things that could theoretically go a long way toward making one’s stats improve, without doing any physical work.

    Also, I remember reading many years ago that one ref trusted Kevin Johnson so much that he would ask him if he got calls right or not.

    Reffing in the NBA is an interesting conversation in general because it effects the integrity of the game, but to this site I think it is especially relevant. There is so much stock put into numbers around here that it tends, at times, to ignore the human element of basketball. Not just in the way refs treat superstars, but in the way they call games on a molecular level.

  6. Robert Silverman Post author

    “this 180 from your inane article of a month ago (”An Open Letter to LeBron”) with no acknowledgement of your earlier position qualifies you to work at one of the local papers, congratulations!”

    I would have brought it up, but what the forum didn’t seem to grasp was that there was a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the “No to LeBron” article. But you’re right, I should send my CV to the NY Post ASAP

  7. BigBlueAL

    Pippen fouled the shit out of Hubert Davis at the end of Game 5 in 1994!! Great call!!

    BTW True Hoops on ESPN.com has an article poking major holes in Donaghy’s claims about the NBA refs fixing games.

  8. Caleb

    off-topic, Mr. Hollinger has pulled up the curtain on his playoff odds feature, and his formula gives the Knicks a 42 percent chance of making it. Over/under on 2009-2010 wins is 37.

    That’s about what I guessed before the season (maybe exactly, I’d have to revisit that post!) but it’s sort of amazing when you look at how the season started.

    It’s an automatic calculation, based off his power rankings and remaining schedules. Last year, Hollinger tweaked the formula to give more weight to recent games, and I have to wonder if he’s taken it even further for 2009-2010. To reach 37, the Knicks would have to play .500 the rest of the way. That’s possible – they’ve played like a .500 team the last two weeks, with a few wins, including the Phoenix blowout, and close losses to good teams — but on first pass, I’d be surprised to see them keep it up.

  9. Mulligan

    Why do you think basketball refs have more leeway in making their calls than Umpires and football refs? Is it because the game is so much more fluid and frenetic than the other two? Is there a similar deal with soccer? I never watch it, but always felt like it was the intellectual sister of hoops.

    Also, if baseball is an extension of rural, democratic america and if football is basically an extended riff on trench warfare, what is the corollary for basketball? Everyone always says jazz, but that just seems like code for urban (i.e. black). There must be something better..

  10. Peter87

    Mulligan,

    The reffing in soccer is the most controversial in any sport I know of; on any given Sunday in Italy much of the post-game commentary is discussing calls. I think the main reason is that soccer is such a low scoring game; in basketball, calling a foul can give a team 2 points in a 90-point game, while in soccer, awarding (or denying) a penalty kick can give a team a goal which can frequently decide the game.

    Add to that the fact that there is only ONE ref per game (there are two linesmen, who make a few calls [mostly offsides] but the majority are made by one ref) on a BIG field and you can understand the problems.

    Can I change the subject a bit here? One thing I love about soccer is that the clock never stops; one thing I hate about basketball is that sometimes the last minute takes 20 real-time minutes to play because of intentional fouls. I think the problem is that, after fouling, your team GETS THE BALL, so there is an advantage in fouling. What do people think about this rule change: on any foul, the fouled team get one free throw AND KEEPS POSSESSION. Would this improve or ruin the game?

  11. jon abbey

    what does “baseball is an extension of rural, democratic america” mean? the connection between basketball and jazz is much more obvious to me, collaborative improv within a set of strict boundaries.

    on an entirely unrelated note, I would LOVE for us to finish ahead of the Bulls this year, given the recent history between us.

  12. Mulligan

    Jon, I was referring to the idea that baseball’s form can be traced to its origins in rural America, so that one could imagine some group of men playing the game after a long day of clearing a field or some other rural-ish sounding thing. I suppose the length of its season coincides with farming activities. It’s democratic in the sense that the focus of the action is on an individual taking the opportunity to excel and distinguish himself within the context of the team.

    What’s going on with the Bulls? All of the stories about them lately make it sound like they’re having some kind of mental collapse.

    Also, what’s going on with the Kings – did folks see them doing this well so far?

  13. d-mar

    Nice to see Eddy Curry is brimming with confidence: “They’re really rolling right now. I don’t want to be the reason we lose the game. It’s going to be touchy for me. I trust Coach puts me in there when he feels I’m ready.”

    I don’t want to be the reason we lose the game? Wow, Eddy, don’t say what you’re thinking, please, just give the standard “I want to help the team in whatever way I can” response.

  14. Kikuchiyo

    In 30 years, the NBA champs have come from only six places:
    Boston, L.A., Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio, and Detroit. That’s it….with one glaring exception, the 2006 Miami Heat. Others might prefer more parity and opportunity, but I love what this says about the importance of building a franchise and a culture of winning. And yet that Heat championship–although duly earned–feels like a real blemish.

    The purist in me still recoils in thinking about that ugly Dwyane Wade foul festival with rent-a-Shaq in tow. Sure, the Mavericks are hardly a bedrock franchise. And, sure, Wade is savvy and completely within his rights to seek foul calls. As long as refs call defensive fouls on his tumbles through the lane, he should keep tumbling, even in a 2010 Knicks uniform, if we’re so lucky. But, yuck, that is some ugly basketball.

    I tend to think of it as about half talent (Wade really is good at forcing contact) and half reputation (refs will not give the same calls to, say, Toney Douglas). But, when it happens, it stinks. It’s hard to watch NBA games with my father–an NBA skeptic–when the superstars spend the game at the free throw line. It just confirms his view that the league orchestrates outcomes.

    (And, by the way, to whomever suggested that Trevor Ariza and Wilson Chandler are basically the same player (in another thread), I say “WHA????”)

  15. ess-dog

    Abbey, I have to say I shouted when I saw that the Nets beat the Bulls last night. I’m always pleased when the Bulls take it on the chin (their fans act so damn superior sometimes.)
    I mean, the Del Negro hiring was ridiculous, but they almost pulled a 2006 Warriors against the Celts and I think it drained them. I see them collapsing this year the way the Warriors did.
    I would love to get their draft pick while they still believe they are a playoff team. I could see them trading for Nate- they desperately need scoring.

  16. Frank O.

    Refs are subjective, I’m sure. But so is judging whether or not a person is favoring one player or another without data.
    Interpreting motives, unless one can find a clear cut example, like the idiot who was betting on games, is exceedingly difficult.

    I think bias is clear toward elite players. Bernard King, Pat Ewing, Frazier, and other great Knicks certainly got favorable treatment. And I’m certain refs like to be liked by stars as much as the next guy.

    But there should be a process to review bad calls, even if after a game, if for no other reason to provide a score card on refs.
    With the kind of money the league has, it would be worth creating review teams, kept entirely separate of the games and the refs and the players, who review the calls each game and score refs on their performance.
    If there are bad calls, what player and team benefited and what player and team suffered for the call.
    That data, specific to refs and players, could be placed into a database, and over time, it would be pretty easy to spot trends and work with refs to watch themselves more carefully…I think then they can be evaluated and take corrective action should a trend be obvious enough to determine a ref is favoring a player or team.

    In some cases, refs may not be aware of their proclivities. I think at times in our lives and careers we have found certain tendencies, sometimes because someone else noticed them, and we worked to correct them.
    This system, like personnel issues, must be protected, and kept very private. In doing so, it creates a trust factor that currently doesn’t exist.

    Thoughts?

  17. Frank O.

    On Nate, Hahn tweeted this:

    Telling stat: In the 16 games Nate has been in uniform (missed 6 with ankle), the Knicks are 6-1 when he plays under 19 mins. 19+ mins? 0-9.

  18. xduckshoex

    “I tend to think of it as about half talent (Wade really is good at forcing contact) and half reputation (refs will not give the same calls to, say, Toney Douglas). But, when it happens, it stinks. It’s hard to watch NBA games with my father–an NBA skeptic–when the superstars spend the game at the free throw line. It just confirms his view that the league orchestrates outcomes.”

    Of course reputation plays a part, that goes without saying but it’s not because there is a conscious bias in favour of superstars. Basketball is a very fast game and it makes it very difficult to be 100% certain who is at fault in a lot of situations; in those situations it’s human nature to give the benefit of the doubt to the star. I don’t know why basketball fans have such a difficult time realizing this.

  19. Z

    “Why do you think basketball refs have more leeway in making their calls than Umpires”

    Baseball could be umped by a guy in Kansas sitting at his computer and the game wouldn’t be any different. The rules are defined by lines. There is no subjectivity. It seems that the only reason human Umps still exist is because of their union.

    A foul in basketball is extremely subjective. They have made a few changes to try to define it (like the restricted zone), but every possession there is a moment where the ref could whistle a foul. But games like that are boring to watch, so they call a few here, a few there, and even throw in a “make up” call every once in a while.

    When you have an outed dirty-ref in a sport that is so subjectively controlled by a reftocracy (the few with the whistles have the power) it really compromises the legitimacy of the sport. It is a problem that NBA fans seem willing to close their eyes to (Robert’s “option C”) which is actually highly consistent with human nature. Like the major religions choose to ignore scientific advancement, or the major industries ignore global warming, ref-bias is an “inconvenient truth” that we fans would rather downplay rather than admit that the countless hours and dollars spent obsessing over the Knicks has been wasted on an illegitimate product.

  20. rrude

    here’s another aspect of the ref question: the make-up call. You know, when a ref completely blows a call and mysteriously during the next sequence a marginal call goes in favor of the slighted team.

    I have been watching NBA for 20 years, and this has happened in all 20 of those years. It’s an established part of the game, as far as I am concerned. In the ’90’s the announcers used to draw attention to it, but I am guessing the league has mandated against that now.

    So what’s going on in these cases? It’s been said before that fouls can be called on almost every NBA sequence, and if so, this enables the make-up call. So is the rationale that the refs are just suddenly paying more attention or what? What are they doing when they aren’t calling that marginal foul? How does this phenomenon interact with the supposed objectivity?

    Not really pushing an answer just food for thought.

  21. Ted Nelson

    Kikuchiyo,

    Pat Riley has built a pretty good “winning culture” in Miami. I agree that those Finals were ugly, but Miami’s been in the playoffs 11 of 14 years and this season should make it 12 of 15 this season. Is it really much more of a fluke that they won with career Heat mega-star Dwayne Wade than that Houston won with Hakeem? Houston also traded for Drexler before #2, which is somewhat like the Heat “renting” Shaq to play with Wade.

    Anyway I think winning a championship, or several, has a whole lot more to do with having a mega-star or two (talent) than a “winning culture.” The winning culture maybe means that you have a competent, even exceptional, front office in place that assembles talent. If the Lakers still played in Minnesota I doubt Shaq signs there as a FA regardless of their culture and previous accomplishments. If Portland drafts MJ over Bowie we’re not talking about the Bulls’ championships, and probably even if the Knicks’ pick isn’t traded to Seattle who then trades it to Chicago (Pippen). San Antonio’s not on there if half their team doesn’t get hurt in one season (right after a 59 win season they only won 20 games) and they don’t win the lottery (the Celts and Grizz were both worse). Those are all well run franchises, but most of them also had huge stars on their teams.

    By the way, wouldn’t the same franchises winning over and over fit with your father’s theory about the league orchestrating things? There are plenty of things that feed conspiracy theories that the NBA orchestrates things. I have no idea if it’s true.

  22. Ted Nelson

    Good point, Z.

    Frank O.,

    I think that’s a telling stat mostly because it means D’Antoni leaves Nate in the game for long stretches when the starters are struggling, the offense is struggling. 4 of those victories have also come in the recent hot streak, when the Knicks have either turned around their season or had some luck. I could also ask whether it’s a coincidence that the Knicks are 1-5 in games when Nate doesn’t play… and I’d say the answer is probably yes, it’s a coincidence.
    We’ll have to see, but I sort of doubt Nate Robinson is the reason the Knicks lose and win games. Is he really the reason the Knicks have been bad for the previous 4 seasons? Maybe, but I would be shocked.

    xduckshoex,
    “in those situations it’s human nature to give the benefit of the doubt to the star. I don’t know why basketball fans have such a difficult time realizing this.”
    I think everyone realizes this, but I don’t see how anyone could not see that as unjust.

  23. xduckshoex

    Life in general is unjust, people need to stop sweating the small stuff.

    I guess I just don’t see the point in people complaining about something that they would likely do if they were in the exact same situation. People can front all they want but if you saw Lebron and Jordan Hill collide and hit the floor together you’re probably calling that in favour of Lebron unless you’re damn sure that he wasn’t at fault.

  24. Ted Nelson

    I wouldn’t look at the refs so much as the league offices. It’s going to be natural for good slashing scorers and good bigmen scorers to draw more fouls, but I would like to see a conscious league-wide effort not to call a foul every time someone farts around a star, as Robert put it.

    This begs the question of whether the league actively or passively encourages its stars getting calls, which is another thing that raises the concern about whether there is justice in the NBA. I’m not saying there isn’t, just that the structure of the NBA invites a lot of conspiracy theories.

  25. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    “Life in general is unjust, people need to stop sweating the small stuff.”

    But sport provides an avenue for unbiased, just competition, so its valid to argue for equality within it. It’s not “small stuff,” it’s fairness. And fairness is “big stuff.”

    “I guess I just don’t see the point in people complaining about something that they would likely do if they were in the exact same situation. People can front all they want but if you saw Lebron and Jordan Hill collide and hit the floor together you’re probably calling that in favour of Lebron unless you’re damn sure that he wasn’t at fault.”

    What makes you think that other people would call a foul on Jordan Hill simply because he’s not as athletic or skilled (or, ulp, popular) as LeBron? It’s not “fronting;” its being an impartial referee. I think that the casual fan might want to see LeBron score 50 every night from bad, partial calls, but it’s not good for the integrity of the game. And when a sport loses integrity, it inches closer and closer to pro wrestling.

  26. tastycakes

    It’s interesting how little these ‘revelations’ affect my desire to watch.

    Some of my favorite teams of the past decade got absolutely robbed by the officials / league in the playoffs — the Blazers, the Kings, the Suns, and the 2007 Mavs. (The Mavs couldn’t breathe on Wade in that series without a whistle blown. It was disgusting).

    Basically, the team I root for never wins it all. Ever. And I keep hoping that one of these years, one of these exciting upstarts will break through against better competition. AND YET there are clear indications that many of my preferred squads have been figuratively raped in the ass by the officiating.

    And still I watch. Guess there is something inherent to the game that I find beautiful and entertaining. Maybe speculating about fixed refs and blown calls is part of the fun?

  27. Ted Nelson

    “I could also ask whether it’s a coincidence that the Knicks are 1-5 in games when Nate doesn’t play…”

    Should have said, “when Nate doesn’t suit up…”

  28. TDM

    Ken Berger at Sportsline reports that discussions between the Knicks and Bulls re Tyrus are supposed to start up again with the knicks offering someone other than Harrington – possibly Nate. The problem as I see it is that Nate can veto any trade, but I can’t imagine he would hold up a deal to the bulls. Rose, Deng, Noah are a solid core, and the bulls seemed to miss Ben Gordon’s scoring this season. According to the ESPN trade machine, the knicks still have trade exceptions for Malik Rose and Roberson. I’m not 100% sure how that works but if the knicks can apply one of these exceptions to a Nate for Tyrus trade, I think that would work.

    I’d like to do that trade. We know what we have with Nate and I don’t see the Knicks giving him a long-term deal in the off-season. Renting Tyrus for the remainder of the season to see how he would fit with the Knicks’ core, once he gets healthy, seems like a good idea.

    http://ken-berger.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/11838893/18831153

  29. rrude

    “I wouldn’t look at the refs so much as the league offices.”

    it’s one thing to think of the refs as humans with biases, it’s another to think of the league mandating that certain players get calls. The former is unavoidable and contributes to the narrative of the game. The latter would undermine the game’s integrity and push it towards WWF.

    “It’s interesting how little these ‘revelations’ affect my desire to watch.”

    As I said, I think part of the appeal for those of us who love the NBA is that personalities matter, the narrative of top dog and underdog matters, and there’s a microcosm of the uneven playing field of life being played out on the court.

    Even though calling balls and strikes can be similarly fuzzy, umpires have known tendencies and it’s hard to imagine them veering away from those to punish players they don’t like. So an ump may not like Manny, but he’s not likely to call him out on strikes regularly as a result. Manny’s personality has more effects off the field than on.

    Calling pass interference can be fuzzy, but through sheer numbers–so many refs, so many different players–and the speed of the game it’s hard to imagine a ref saying to himself ‘oh, it’s that guy, I hate him’ and making a call.

    Whereas if Lebron’s on the court, everyone knows it and reacts accordingly. Not sure I believe there’s a league mandate to favor him and it would matter to me if there was.

  30. Ted Nelson

    “it’s one thing to think of the refs as humans with biases, it’s another to think of the league mandating that certain players get calls. The former is unavoidable and contributes to the narrative of the game. The latter would undermine the game’s integrity and push it towards WWF.”

    This is a possibility, but not the only one I was alluding to. That would be actively encouraging it, but I also mentioned passively encouraging it. David Stern doesn’t have to send a memo to the refs detailing which players should get calls to encourage their behavior. He/the league could do it more subtly. If this bias does, in fact, exist and the league is not monitoring it and discouraging it, that’s almost encouraging it as well. I have never researched whether the bias actually exists, but subjectively it does seem to.

    Interesting points about baseball and football. In baseball a player can also avoid being called out on strikes by swinging at anything they feel will be close to the strike zone and the league has a very objective way to grade umpires’ balls and strikes calls (and pretty much every other call as well). Football seems a lot closer to basketball, besides the difference in number of players you mention. In football there is probably at least one penalty on most plays, but the refs call the ones they catch and the ones that blatantly impact the outcome of the play.

    On this topic in general, I would say that refs/umps have a fair amount of influence on any game in subtle ways. If I were in the gambling industry (especially if I were already engaged in other illegal activities) I would likely see if I couldn’t influence their decisions.

  31. DRed

    Tastycakes, you should become a Yankees fan. It makes rooting for the Knicks slightly more tolerable.

  32. xduckshoex

    “What makes you think that other people would call a foul on Jordan Hill simply because he’s not as athletic or skilled (or, ulp, popular) as LeBron? It’s not “fronting;” its being an impartial referee.”

    I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that you award it to Lebron simply because he’s Lebron, I’m saying you would award it to him because in a situation where you don’t know exactly who is at fault it’s only natural to side with the one who is less likely to be at fault the majority of the time. It has nothing to do with impartiality, it’s just the way that we are.

    That’s why I roll my eyes whenever people talk about a so-called unfair bias with referees in these situations; there is no way to have an unbiased referee and there is no way to have star players who do not get the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t say that it’s unfair because there is nothing that can be done about it and it’s the way things have been since day one. You handle it the same way you handle every other inevitability: you suck it up and learn to deal with it.

  33. tastycakes

    DRed, I am a Yankees fan :)
    No complaints there. It’s only the NBA — which is my true passion, not baseball — where I can’t seem to pick a winner.

    But hey, someday the Knicks will be good again. It’s going to happen! In my lifetime!

  34. d-mar

    The rest of the East, other than Boston and Orlando, continues to flounder (even the Cavs have lost 2 straight). Philly, Toronto and Chicago are in crisis mode. The next 3 weeks, where the Knicks schedule gets easier, are a golden opportunity to get in the playoff mix. But we could just as easily start losing to sub-.500 teams, after all, they all look at the schedule and pencil in a W when the Knicks come to town, even with our recent “hot” streak.

  35. J Weezy

    very true d-mar….but its nice to know the while the knicks are on there little yet extremely important 3 game win streak, the cavs shaq experiment can be considered 95 percent fail and that they’ve dropped two straight(one to memphis). maybe lebron will see the light…..of times square :)

  36. Z-man

    Yeah, we are definitely back in the playoff hunt for now. This is around the time when other teams should adjust to what the Knicks are doing recently, so getting Curry back to mix things up a bit might do more good than harm.

    One thing I like about the wins we have had recently is the way we are closing out games. Seems like when we have a lead in the 4th Q and the other team makes a run, we have stepped up.

    Finally a good shooting game for Jennings, and a nice win for the Bucks. Yeah, Philly is a mess, are they better off w/o Brand? Do they miss Miller that much?

    How does Del Negro still have a job?!

  37. Z-man

    The Bulls are truly an enigma. They have had every conceivable opportunity (thanks to the Knicks, in large part) to build a monster team and still are floundering around. Wonder if D’Antoni would have made a big difference there…

  38. rrude

    Bulls have overvalued the wrong guys and undervalued Gordon. They should have pulled the trigger on a trade for a proven vet a while ago. They couldn’t let go of Deng to get Garnett, Gasol, Boozer, et al?

    But they’re not alone. After doing so well to put a good young team together, I feel Like the Blazers are getting similarly confused about how to proceed. They seem afraid to give up on some of their young players, overvalue some (Aldridge is not worth his contract), undervalue some (Bayless was getting raves for half a season and now doesn’t play) and look like they may regress (injuries aside), unless they grow a set and trade for a real vet that fills a team need.

    That’s why it pleases me that folks on this forum see through Wilson Chandler, and hopefully those running the team do so as well. He looks like a second round pick who should be struggling to find minutes on any team, but due to the Knicks lack of talent and the need to promote somebody, he masquerades as a prospect. Trade him before everyone else figures it out. This isn’t an Ariza situation. Ariza was a defensive player from the start, is longer and more athletic….I can’t even say what Chandler excels at, and he is not very athletic. Doesn’t like contact, and isn’t a consistent shooter.

  39. irvin

    If Lebron doesn’t go to the NBA finals with Cleveland this year, he will probably go to a different team, giving his desire for a championship as the reason for leaving. I still believe that, in the long run, Lebron may need the Knicks (for $alary/sponsor$hip/expo$ure reasons) as much as the Knicks need him.

    I sincerely hope the Knicks – if given the option – will bring two very good players instead of a single mega-star. What if Lebron comes here and gets hurt? I’d take Wade and Amare over Lebron (even though Lebron is far better than either one of them) any day of the week.

    My feeling is that several current Knicks like Gallo, Douglas, Hill, Lee and even Darko could flourish as part of a supporting cast, instead of having the weight of leadership on their shoulders.

  40. cwod

    Thorpe’s new piece on ESPN.com says the Cavs would be the best team in the league if they had Gallo. His blocks and steals are up this month so far, too.

  41. Ted Nelson

    “I sincerely hope the Knicks – if given the option – will bring two very good players instead of a single mega-star. What if Lebron comes here and gets hurt? I’d take Wade and Amare over Lebron (even though Lebron is far better than either one of them) any day of the week.”

    I don’t think you get that option… Wade and Amare are looking at the same salary as LeBron, since the NBA has a maximum salary. Wade is not far behind LeBron anyway. If you can sign either of those guys , you live with the injury risk.

    I don’t think Darko is flourishing anytime soon, I agree on the rest though. Considering they are all flourishing already (Hill in very, very limited garbage minutes) it’s not really a stretch.

    rrude,

    I agree with your points. The only thing I would say is that we don’t really know what offers the Bulls actually had on the table, rumors can be misleading. Agree that Portland blew it this offseason by giving LaMarcus soooo much money and by signing Miller (who I like in a situation where he’s not playing with Roy) instead of sticking with a scoring point like Bayless. The big difference between trading Ariza and possibly trading Chandler should be that would don’t trade Chandler for some washed up over-hyped whiner with a lot of money left on his contract. I like Ariza better than WC, but if he had been included in a package for KG or Pau or something no one would be complaining.

    Z-man,

    I think teams will make adjustments, but mediocre-to-bad defensive teams can only do so much to adjust to good ball-movement and 40%+ 3P shooting plus an efficient interior operator like Lee. I think the biggest adjustment teams can make might just be to show up expecting to play a real NBA team and not a team on par with the Nets and T-Wolves.
    Generally they are closing games and Qs better, but it’s not a rule. In their last game Portland scored twice as many points in the 4th as the Knicks (29 to 15).

  42. J Weezy

    ilyasova…u gotta be kidding me…i dont agree with that at all…no mention of rose or mayo…hmmmmm

  43. rrude

    TN, I agree about the Bulls rumors, but one constant was that they (reportedly) wanted to keep Deng. No one knew at the time he wouldn’t be as good now as he was a few years ago, but what they did know is that their roster wasn’t balanced and they lacked a paint presence. They’ve had the same need for years…since they traded Eddy Curry!!!

    Relevant to both Aldridge and Chandler, my main complaint about the NBA in the post-Jordan era has been the hurry to anoint players as stars. They have slowed it down recently, but it’s still a problem today–see the recent Jennings hype. The league, the teams, sportswriters all need someone to promote, someone to write about and we get stuck with a bunch of pseudo-stars who are promoted to the head of the class without having to work for it, and many never learn to work at all. (Although in the Knicks case, it’s more that out of desperation, homers have anointed Chandler as a potential breakout player.)

    It’ll be interesting to see how a couple other up and coming teams sort out similar issues. OKC can’t give Green the kind of money Aldridge got, right? (not the same player, but similar in terms of role/rep/draft position/need for the franchise to recoup value). The issue of overpaying is relevant to all teams, because it helps a guy like David Lee think he’s going to get 10mil plus when he can’t play defense.

  44. Brian Cronin

    This schedule is killing me!

    How the heck do you get three days off in a row? How does that work?!

  45. Z-man

    David-
    “D’Antoni has been doing a good job, as far as I’m concerned, given that there’s less talent on this roster than there is on the Nets (ask yourself — straight-up trade Lee and Gallo for Harris and Lopez. Who do you take?)”

    I keep Lee and Gallo because I think Gallo will be the best of the 4 and Lee is as good of a PF as Lopez is a C.

    Ted-
    “I think teams will make adjustments, but mediocre-to-bad defensive teams can only do so much to adjust to good ball-movement and 40%+ 3P shooting plus an efficient interior operator like Lee. I think the biggest adjustment teams can make might just be to show up expecting to play a real NBA team and not a team on par with the Nets and T-Wolves.”

    Agreed, but there are other things to try, like doubling Harrington and forcing him to pass.

    “Generally they are closing games and Qs better, but it’s not a rule. In their last game Portland scored twice as many points in the 4th as the Knicks (29 to 15).”

    True, but when the lead got down to nine with more than 5 minutes left, they stepped up.

    Re: Portland, I was thinking about them when making the points about Chicago and Phila. Miller seemed like a much better fit in Philly and Portland probably could have stood pat or traded for someone younger and quicker. Oden was a consensus pick and just hasn’t panned out, so to an extent the Blazers have also been unlucky.

    RRude-
    “Bulls have overvalued the wrong guys and undervalued Gordon. They should have pulled the trigger on a trade for a proven vet a while ago. They couldn’t let go of Deng to get Garnett, Gasol, Boozer, et al?”

    Didn’t they have a chance to more or less trade Deng for Kobe at one time?

  46. Thomas B.

    ,blockquote> “This schedule is killing me!

    How the heck do you get three days off in a row? How does that work?!”

    Look at the conference standings and you will see the Knicks played more games early on than most other teams in the conference. This gives them a chance to catch up.

    You guys familiar with

    Basically, its when something appears to be moving from a specific vantage point. See the Knicks are climbing the conference standings without lifting a finger because the other bad teams now have a chance to show how bad they really are. We leap Philly and Indy just by standing still and letting their losses pile up.

    I know its waaaay too early to start gloating but I recall a handsome young journalist here commenting that Iverson was a shell of the player he was 2 seasons ago. Well I watched the last two games and I must say its sad watching Iverson try to dribble around people he used to just blow right by. Shell. Its sad. But I am so glad we left him on the door step. Philly you are welcome to him. And on that subject, what is up with Elton Brand? Yikes.

  47. Thomas B.

    How great would it be to send Curry back to the Bulls for Thomas and an expiring contract? Its like taking a mulligan on a trade.

  48. Ted Nelson

    rrude,

    Yeah, Lu hasn’t taken that step forward people expected. Still a solid NBA player, though. They’ve got good talent, so at some point I think they turn it around. At some point Del Negro is out of there. A lot of those guys are playing way below their potential, and that should at least be a good defensive team. They really seem to have quit.

    Good point about anointing stars.

    I don’t think Green will get as much as Aldridge since he’s smaller and not a high-volume scorer. He probably gets overpaid, though.
    I think 10 mill per is a fair market price for Lee given the other deals out there. Not that the market is necessarily right. His defense at the 4 is also a lot better than at the 5.

  49. Ted Nelson

    “D’Antoni has been doing a good job, as far as I’m concerned, given that there’s less talent on this roster than there is on the Nets (ask yourself — straight-up trade Lee and Gallo for Harris and Lopez. Who do you take?)”

    Missed this quote, but are you kidding? Not only do the Nets stink but the talent on the roster is not even the issue with all the injuries they had.

    Z-Man,

    “doubling Harrington and forcing him to pass.”

    Yeah, that’s a good one. One team started to adjust to Harrington, knowing he was going to shoot basically every time, and just stonewalled him on a couple possessions. Don’t remember which game. If the other guys shots are falling the Knicks can still win, though, as they did against Portland when Harrington struggled. Teams can just encourage Hughes to take long jumpers with the assumption he’s going to return to his career .310 3P% after a couple hot outings. With their personnel I’m just not sure the Knicks can continue hitting 40% of their 3s regularly, but they have been for a while now so who knows.

    “True, but when the lead got down to nine with more than 5 minutes left, they stepped up.”

    Yeah that was good, but how epic of a failure would it have been to blow a 23 point lead in a quarter? All they had to do going into that quarter was not get outscored by 23 or more, and they did almost everything they could (Larry Hughes isolation plays, for example) to let it happen.

    “Oden was a consensus pick and just hasn’t panned out, so to an extent the Blazers have also been unlucky.”

    He hasn’t panned out due to injury and there is a trend, but it’s of unrelated injuries. Maybe he’s just brittle, but I don’t think all the Bowie comparisons are justified. Bowie had a good rookie year and probably would have been a good NBA center if he stayed healthy, but he was never the defender or rebounder Oden is. Bowie’s steady decline even once he was healthy enough to play could be attributable to lingering injuries but could also point to a poor work ethic or loss of passion for the game. Oden was giving Roy a run for title of best player on the Blazers this season if he could have kept his fouls down enough to stay on the court and cut his TOs. He may prove brittle to the point where he’s injured every season and he may have a Balkman-like incurable fouling problem, but I still think the 22 year old bigman has time to pan out. If WC gets the benefit of the doubt for being 22, I think Oden does too.

    “Didn’t they have a chance to more or less trade Deng for Kobe at one time?”

    There were rumors, but who knows. Especially in that case where Kobe never got moved. In a lot of those trade rumors the Bulls were losing 3 or more young pieces (say, Deng, Hinrich/Gordon, and Thomas) so you can sort of see where they would have thought twice since they’d be rescuing a star from a losing environment only to bring him to another team with no supporting cast. KG had a no-trade clause and I think Kobe was nearing free agency, so the Bulls would have been risking losing him. Plus KG and Pau were traded to the career team of their old teams’ Presidents. Neither was totally one-sided, but they probably both could have done better.

  50. Ted Nelson

    You could go with a European format of playing 2 specific days every week (a basketball version of the NFL), but since the NBA is more popular on TV they probably don’t want that.

    Thomas B,

    Iverson’s been miserable in Philly, but in the same minutes (71 v. 67) in Memphis he killed it. So, I would say it’s way too early to gloat. Chances are he’s not as good as he looked in Memphis, but chances also are that he’s better than he’s shown in Philly.

  51. rrude

    “Plus KG and Pau were traded to the career team of their old teams’ Presidents.”

    wow, I never put both of those together like that. Great point.

  52. rohank

    Thomas B, I can’t do the HTML with the quotes either (computer science fail).

    Anyway, Ted Nelson said “KG had a no-trade clause and I think Kobe was nearing free agency, so the Bulls would have been risking losing him.”

    I’m pretty sure it was the other way around. Kobe was (and is) the only player in the NBA with a no-trade-clause, and KG was nearing free agency so it was effectively a no-trade clause b/c teams didn’t want a 1 season rental. Anyway, there was a deal in place for Kobe to go to the Bulls, but Kobe nixed it b/c he thought the bulls were giving up too much (ie Deng). So even Kobe thought Deng was gonna be really good!! Anyways, it doesn’t change any of the arguments above, but I just wanted to get (what i believe to be) the correct facts out there.

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