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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Joey Crawford Wants to Hop in an Octagon with Tim Duncan

After Raja Bell clotheslined him in a playoff game last year, Kobe Bryant said, "If you want to train and hop in an octagon, we can train and hop in an octagon. That’s not basketball." Bryant and Bell seem to be on amicable terms now but a new NBA feud has emerged: official Joey Crawford versus the Spurs' Tim Duncan. The problem began when Crawford apparently became convinced that thousands of fans bought tickets and millions of viewers turned on their televisions not to watch Duncan play versus Dirk Nowitzki but rather to see Crawford prove how tough he is. First, Duncan was whistled for a very questionable offensive foul (this call was not made by Crawford). Duncan was taken out of the game and play continued. Crawford felt that Duncan was mocking him from the bench (Duncan later denied saying anything), so he hit Duncan with a technical foul. Then, about a minute later, the Spurs' Fabricio Oberto was called for a foul. Duncan was still on the bench and he started laughing and then he covered his face with a towel. Crawford pointed to Duncan and ejected him. Duncan first looked stunned. Then, when he realized that Crawford was serious, Duncan appeared to direct an epithet toward Crawford before leaving the court. The only player who I remember being ejected in a similar way is Rasheed Wallace, who was tossed by Ron Garretson several years ago for staring at him in a "funny" way--but at least Sheed was actually on the court at the time, though that one seemed a bit harsh as well, even if Sheed is a hothead.

Duncan's ejection for laughing was strange enough but that was just the start. After the game, Duncan said of Crawford, "He looked at me and said, 'Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?' If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don't have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, 'Do you want to fight?'" Duncan added, "He came into the game with a personal vendetta against me. It had to be because I didn't do anything the entire game. I said three words to him and the three words were, 'I got fouled' on a shot. ... That's all I said to him the entire game."

On the other hand, Crawford contended "he was complaining the whole game...And then he went over to the bench and he was over there doing the same stuff behind our back. I hit him with one (technical) and he kept going over there, and I look over there and he's still complaining. So I threw him out." Crawford added, "He called me a piece of (expletive). Is that nothing?" But Duncan appeared to say that after he was ejected, not before.

It will be very interesting to see how the NBA handles this. I was not there, so I don't know what was said back and forth throughout the game--but it certainly seemed that Crawford ejected one of the league's best players because he was laughing. How can Crawford know what Duncan was laughing about? Duncan was not even on the court. Maybe Gregg Popovich told a funny joke. Maybe somebody passed gas. How can an official eject someone for laughing?

The outcome of this game could have affected who gets the number two seed in the Western Conference. The Phoenix Suns had the inside track but had not clinched that spot until the Spurs went on to lose. San Antonio led 74-68 when Duncan was ejected and got outscored 23-12 the rest of the way. I don't believe in conspiracies but this is the kind of thing that fuels reckless talk. Then there is the matter of the above comments from Duncan and Crawford. The NBA cannot sweep this under the rug. Either Crawford abused his power, challenged a player to a fight and wrongly ejected him or Duncan is lying. If the first is true, then Duncan's technical fouls should be rescinded (at least the second one, for sure) and Crawford should be suspended. If the second is true, then one of the NBA's top players has slandered a veteran official by falsely accusing him of challenging him to a fight; that would seem to warrant a heavy fine, at least according to previous precedents. It will be very interesting to see how Commissioner David Stern deals with this volatile situation. Can the NBA afford to have Crawford officiate a Spurs playoff game?

It's a shame that this happened, because it takes the focus off of a very competitive game between the NBA's two best teams (San Antonio has the league's best record since the All-Star break and has been easily handling the Suns for years, so the Suns are not the second best team in my book). Dallas Coach Avery Johnson said before the game that he would not use any of his players for more than 26 minutes (the Mavericks have already clinched home court advantage, so this game was technically meaningless for them) but five Mavericks ended up playing longer than that--despite Duncan missing the entire fourth quarter. In other words, despite what anybody said, both teams looked at this game as a potential playoff preview and each wanted to get the upper hand against the other. The game was close throughout and very well played--but instead of seeing an exciting conclusion with both teams playing at full strength all we got was Crawford trying to prove that he's the boss. San Antonio made some key mistakes down the stretch and the Mavericks won, 91-86. Dirk Nowitzki and Devin Harris led Dallas with 21 points each, while Tony Parker had a game-high 23 points for the Spurs. Duncan finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots.

If the NBA can verify that what Duncan said about Crawford is true let's hope that David Stern shows Crawford who is really the boss so that a fiasco like this does not happen during the playoffs.

There is a precedent for Stern taking strong action here. Jake O'Donnell was a well-respected official who, for unknown reasons, intensely disliked Clyde Drexler. O'Donnell ejected Drexler from a playoff game for no apparent reason and never worked another NBA game. The "official" story (no pun intended) is that O'Donnell retired--but who has ever heard of one of the top officials in a sport suddenly quitting early in the playoffs and then announcing his retirement several months later? O'Donnell's ejection of Drexler was so egregious--and it came after O'Donnell refused to shake Drexler's hand before the tip-off--that the NBA had no choice but to get rid of him. Obviously, this was hardly something that the league wanted to become a big story, so it is easy to understand why the NBA never admitted to firing O'Donnell. I wonder if, in this age of intense media coverage, the NBA will be able to find such an easy way out of this mess.

posted by David Friedman @ 10:36 PM



At Monday, April 16, 2007 1:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crawford has been an abomination for years - aesthetically as well as referee-ically.I hope he gets canned this time.

At Monday, April 16, 2007 4:44:00 PM, Blogger marcel said...

that was disgraceful tim duncan is a class guy joey crawford take a step back fam.

At Tuesday, April 17, 2007 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Americas Best Zoos author said...

Ever seen the Billy Crystal movie, "Forget Paris"? Someone should check into whether Joey Crawford is having love life problems. His ejection of Duncan for laughing on the bench was only slightly less funny than Crystal ejecting Kareem, Isiah Thomas, etc. in that movie.

At Sunday, April 22, 2007 8:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave--in answer to your no pun intended--the official story is Jake O'Donnell retired but whoever heard of a top official retiring.??? Is this the same Jake O'Donnel who worked the 1971 ALCS between Baltimore(Earl Weaver) and Oakland (Dick Williams) and the same Jake O'Donnell who worked 2nd base at the 1971 All-Star Game with Eark Weaver and Billy Martin from the AL and Sparky Anderson and Walter Alston from the NL? The same Jake O'Donnell, who was forced to make a decision as to which sport to choose? The American League told him he would probabley get an ALCS every 4th year and a World Series every 6th year and a few more All-Star games every now and then. The NBA said he would probably get the NBA Finals every year till he retired. Now, which sport would you have chosen?? So, I guess Jake didn't know a darn thing about officiating and being "shown up" and what "shown up" even means or how to even officiate at all, right? Jake proceeded to work 23 straight NBA Finals (don't forget he also worked the playoffs between the old ABA and NBA back when they had them) until he was suspended for not shaking the two-faced Clyde Drexler's hand. Years earlier Drexler had not shaken Jake's hand when he didn't like a previous call Jake made against him. So, Jake decided from that point on, since Drexler was being so two-faced, that he would never shake hands again period (no matter what) rather than shake hands with a two-faced front runner, and who could blame Jake (the old, I'll shake your hand when I agree with your call and not shake hands when I don't agree is so two-faced and cowardly). So, when Jake would not shake hands (and why should he-see above) before the playoff game and then gave Drexler 2 technicals and ejection, the league "suspended" him. Now, if you remember, a lot of the senoir officials (and Jake was one) were Richie Phillips supporters even though Richie was fired by the officials union. Remember, Richie had brought them from earning peanuts to earning in the top 1% of all wage-earners for the senoir officials (not the rookies-you had to work many years to become a senoir official but he improved everyone's compensation). In 1995, right after the Drexler affair in which Jake was suspended, the official's had a bitter 100 day strike prior to the start of 1995-1996 season in which officials from the CBA and elsewhere were used, that crossed the (picket) line( remember years earlier back in the 80's Steve Javie was asked to cross the line during a strike and he refused). Jake O'Donnell was one of the board members or high ranking officers in the Union (NBRA-National Basketball Referees Association)-and they finally had to vote on an agreement which had been proposed by the NBA. Many of the senoir members (and former Phillips supporters) did not like the agreement and urged the other members to vote against the agreement and continue the strike. However, the new contract was approved by a narrow 27-26 (no contract before had ever come close to overturning a senoir membership recommendation of rejection) margin even though many of the senoir members and former Phillips supporters thought was a bad deal. So, with the suspension from the year before and the protracted strike with scabs crossing the line and then a contract signed which was not very good, Jake O'Donnell decided "the heck with this job" and retired. The "League" did not make Jake retire which is exactly what Jake has said all along. Jake retired on his "own", so lets end this debate once and for all that the League (NBA) "fired or forced" Jake to retire. Of course, since Jake did not resign until after the new contract was approved, his retirement pay and benefits were based on this new contract that was ratified, not by the old contract under which he was suspended by the NBA the previous spring. If you think this explanation does not fit with what Jake said, oh well. I do not have all the old Union articles or NBA articles and I cannot afford to keep paying the archive fees that a reporter such as yourself can get for free, but I think if you research all the above information and all the old archived articles and articles concerning NABR Union Contracts with the Officials and Richie Phillips during his time you will figure out that Jake did indeed retire on his own. However, without getting a true first hand, no nonsense interview with Jake (an old Philadelphia boy where there were a lot of "Unions" growing up) himself who I hear now lives in North Carolina (he used to live in Florida-why he moved I don't know) and get him to tell you everything that transpired from spring of 95 to his retirement, you may still always question his statement. However, if Jake said he retired on his own rather than the NBA firing or forcing him out, that's good enough for me. I will take his word anyday.

At Sunday, April 22, 2007 1:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For David Friedman--"anonymous" on the Joey Crawford deal. Have you ever thought that Mr. Stern would not have needed the "crybaby" rule instituted if there were more officials like Joey Crawford to enforce the unsportsmanlike conduct rules that are a part of every sport there is. This includes not only the easy to inforce unsportsmanship infractions like f--- you ref, giving the finger to the crowd, throwing the ball into the stands or grabbing an official, but the gray area infractions like "showing up an official" laughing at calls, clapping hands at calls, rolling the ball the other way when a call goes against you, taunting an opponent, too much trash talking an opponent. Let's go back to how you treated your parents. What if you stuck you tongue out at your mother or laughed at her during a lecture or punishment or think of other ways yoy tried to "show up" your mother". What did your mom do? Didn't she have eyes in the back of her head? How many sneaky things did you try to think up (grey area) that would not make you look so bad but would make mom "look bad" but still you knew you were trying to "put one over" on mom or "show her up"? How did it work??? This is exactly what the players with no "intestinal fortitude" try to do to the officials. They try and commit and think up ways to commit "grey area" and "sneaky" unsportsmanlike conduct jabs and actions so that when the official that "calls them on it" or "calls their bluff" on this kind of conduct and deportment" the official ends up looking bad themselves. Of course, this is the reason the players do these little "behind the back" and sneaky infractions. It makes them look like the official was picking on them (a little saint) rather than showing what kind of people they really are, two-faced, cheap shot artists. A real player will just go up and curse the official and take his medicine and get the T or get tossed and oh well tommorrow is another day. Let me mention some names, Mendy Rudolph, Jake O'Donnell, Earl Strom, Joey Crawford, Steve Javie, Bill Klem, Bill Haller, Al Barlick, Bruce Freomming Jerry Crawford, Andy Van Hellemond, Don Koharski. Why are all these officials rated at the top of their professsions? These are the ones everyone swears are too thin-skinned to do their jobs correctedly. Why, Why, are these type of individuals always rated at the top? Even the commissioner acknowledges Joey Crawford as one of the "top" NBA officials. How do they get to the top "as acknowledged by the commisioner if they are "terrible" and always overly aggressive in their enforcement of the sportsmanship conduct rule? Most people say the refs like Crawford can't call the game (fouls and violations) correctly either. There is nobody forcing them into the top of their profession. There have beeen many senoir officials who do not get to call the finals every year in their respective sports. Maybe if they had called the regular game (regular fouls and infractions) like Joey Crawford and also enforced the unsportsmanlike conduct of the players on the court and benches including the coaches, they would have been rated at the top. I guarantee you Joey Crawford gets all kinds of private complements from coaches (who cannot comment on the record about their premadonna players) for enforcing unacceptable conduct and deportment which the coaches cannot do for fear of a bad relationship with the player. How many assignments has the League sent Joey Crawford into that require an official with a strong backbone who will make sure the proper conduct and fair play will be the rule and not the exception. In other words they are "using" Joey to do their "bidding". This has happened countless times and the League knows and wants Joey to work certain games and everyone knows what to expect from Joey and that Joey does not put up with any crap or nonsense. Everyone in the League and the front office knows this and has known this for years. Did your mother ever punish you for something that you did not think was "as bad" as other things you had done? Did this mean that she was actually "wrong" or did it just mean she punished you for something that was not as "bad" as other things you had done? The same with Joey. He loves his job and he loves the League and respects the heck out of the League and the "Game" itself. So if you laugh at him or disrespect him you are laughing at the League (the Commisioner included) and you are laughing at "the Game", the "Game" he loves and respects so much. Does he sometimes call a Technical for "something bad but not as bad" like mom did. Of course, but does that mean he was actually wrong and deserves a suspension? Heck, they don't even suspend players for this long who do much worse. Think about a baseball player who draws a line on the umpire at the plate. How many times are they going to draw (show up the umpire) that line and the umpire just look the other way? What happens when they are ejected? They try to make it sound like they are a saint and did nothing wrong, when everyone in the stands can see the ump is being shown up. What if they leave their bat right on the middle of the plate after a called third strike and they are the first out. Should the ump just "look the other way"? Lets get the teams involved. What if a player on the visiting team laughs at a player on the home team or shows up the other team while he is in the dugout. If laughing at someone from the dugout rather than "on the field" does not mean anything, like you say Joey should not worry about someone on the bench, then why did this baseball player I saw get "thrown at" and drilled in the back the next time he came up to bat?? Because he was "showing someone up", that's why, even if he was on the bench and in the dugout when he did it. What if a player whose team is ahead 13 to 1 in the 8th inning steals 2nd base. Then that same player comes up to bat in the ninth inning also. Why do you think he gets thrown at and drilled in the back? Because he "showed up" the other team. Why didn't they just let it go??? What about a football team that is ahead 50-0 halfway through the 4th quarter and still has their 1st string in the game. They are "showing up" the other team. Why do you think a fight breaks out? Anyway, why don't all you reporters and fans go and try out at the NBA officiating camp since you all know so much about calling the game (fouls and violations) itself and you also know what should and should not be unsportsmanlike conduct and you all know exactly when to give technical fouls and not to give technical fouls. How will the game get any better if all of you people who know how the game should be officiated just whine and complain and don't do anything about it. Get off your rears and go and try out at the officiating camps? I'm sure with all this talent out there, several reporters and members of the press and several fans will be selected to become NBA officials because of their infinite knowledge of the game and how to apply the rules and how to discipline the teams if needed or when it becomes necessary and nobody will ever question their great calls or question their giving of a technical foul on the court or one on the bench since they already know which ones to call and which ones to let go. I'm also sure the press and fans who become NBA officials would always know when they are being "shown up" and there would never be a question if they called a technical for this type of unsportsmanlike behaviour and the League office would always agree and support them. Oh yeah, and since these officials who have some time in the game are now paid at the level of the top 1% of all wage-earners in the country, why wouldn't this also be an incentive for sportwriters and fans to go try out for these NBA officiating positions? Only the syndicated columnist's make this kind of money and I'm sure a lot of these knowledgeable fans are not making in the top 1% of wage-earners, so why is this not an incentive to also go try-out?? I wish Joey Crawford only the best and look forward to his return.

At Monday, April 23, 2007 3:51:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

You make some interesting points but the bottom line is that Stern specifically outlined to Crawford in previous discussions what is and what is not acceptable in terms of ejecting players and coaches. You cannot have an official ejecting someone for laughing. How can you, Joey Crawford or anyone else know what Duncan was laughing about? Duncan was not even on the court, so why was Crawford paying any attention to him? Crawford grades highly as a ref because he does not miss calls; that is what officials are graded on: their accuracy, based on film review. In Crawford's case, his emotional instability trumps his accuracy.

At Monday, April 23, 2007 4:14:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I read your second comment first, so this comment is a response to your first comment:

Officials are supposed to be impartial arbiters. So, even if Drexler is "two-faced" as you suggest--and I've never heard of other players, coaches or anyone else describe him that way--O'Donnell has no right to just toss him from a game, let alone a playoff game. If someone goes in a courtroom and is disrespectful to the judge, the judge can hold him in contempt of court--but he can't give him the death penalty. If O'Donnell felt that Drexler was that big of a problem then he should have taken it up with the league and not ejected him in a manner that any objective person could see was ludicrous. If Drexler does not shake an official's hand, that may be petty but it does not affect the competitive balance of the game--but if an official nurses a grudge and acts it out then the integrity of the league is at stake. I recall that O'Donnell seemed to be feuding with the whole Blazers' team. He would call ticky tack fouls against them and just wait for someone to say something so he could give them a tech; I thought that this was very petty of him and unbecoming of someone who was an otherwise excellent official. O'Donnell always seemed to be the instigator in these situations, not someone who was trying to defuse the situation.

As for the extensive back story that you provided, I was aware of most of those details. That is why I made it clear that there is an "official" story--that O'Donnell retired of his own volition--but that I question if that is the real story. The reason that I question this is two-fold: O'Donnell's immediate departure and the fact that the official story is in the best interest of both parties. O'Donnell did not leave baseball in the middle of the season or the playoffs (to the best of my knowledge); after he ran Drexler, O'Donnell never officiated another NBA game, but his "retirement" was not announced until months later. It is certainly better, imagewise, for both he and the league to say that he retired than to say that he was suspended or fired. I believe that he also threatened to sue if such language were used publicly. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if O'Donnell insisted on returning because I think that Stern would have held his ground; things may have gotten ugly for both sides but I doubt that Stern would have ever let O'Donnell officiate another game, just like I doubt that Crawford will ever officiate another game.


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