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NBA Action: It's...yawn

[WARNING: The following will certainly come across as an angry old man blog. Just imagine Clint Eastwood yelling at the kids to get off his lawn in "Gran Torino". That's how I am during these NBA finals, yelling at the t.v.]

It's 7:07 MST and the ball is tipped. Derek Fisher controls the tip and dribbles down the court. He passes to Kobe Bryant. Bryant drives, shoots, misses, and the whistle blows. 10 seconds into the game and we have our first whistle.

Okay, maybe it wasn't ten seconds into the game, but it's been very rare through these first four and half games that a minute hasn't gone by without the whistle being blown for a foul. Most likely, the call has gone against the Celtics; or at the very least, Ron Artest. It has gotten to the point where I can't even enjoy the game because every other time down the floor, one of the teams is whistled for a foul. The game is not fun when each of the teams has at least two of its starters on the bench.

This is a matchup the NBA wants (I say "a" because I'm sure most people wanted Lebron vs Kobe.) Two classic rivals, the Lakers and the Celtics, are meant to do battle without the refs blowing their whistle constantly. And that's not happening. It seems that every time the ball goes into the post, a foul is called and we are once again watching free throws. There is no flow to the game. Neither team can get into any sort of rhythm because of the constant fear that these grown men are going to start punching each other. While Ron Artest is playing in these games, no one is going to start a melee and start punching fans. This is not the late 90's when the Heat and Knicks would constantly battle it out in 80 to 78 slugfests. Let the boys play!

Generally, I agree with the rules changes that have implemented and that post play is called a little tighter. Except in these Finals, it seems to have the opposite effect. Fans are paying, or watching at home, to see Kobe and Gasol vs Pierce and Garnett. Pierce and Garnett have spent significant time on the bench, as has Kobe in Game 2. These three players have not been able to get into the flow of games when they get into foul trouble. While this is an age old adage in this sport, these are the NBA Finals and the refs have no right interfering with the game as much as they are. If the refs want to make an impact, maybe they could start calling traveling. Or carrying. As much as Phil Jackson complained about Steve Nash, the refs should take a look at Kobe. That guy palms the ball nearly every time he dribbles.

Most games during these Finals have also had their fair share of phantom calls. Or late whistles. At one instance in Game 3, Paul Pierce was called for a foul against Luke Walton at least 3 seconds after Walton had passed the ball. And Pierce was a good 3 feet away from Walton. Later in that quarter, Rajon Rondo's fingernail touched Kobe's elbow and Rondo was whistled for a foul. Or maybe Kendrick Perkins can be whistled for another illegal screen. Because Kobe's aren't certainly illegal, right? In that fourth quarter of game 2, Kobe continually set screens for Derek Fisher. You know how he set a screen? With his butt against the defender, much like he was boxing him out. I guess that's not an illegal screen. It's something I like to call the "Kobe" rules.

Now, these are just a few examples. And yes, they are all calls that have gone against the Celtics. That's because I root for them and play closer attention to what happens to them. We all know how it works...

For once, though, I am also making the argument for both teams. It's Lakers vs. Celtics. It's the long history of these two teams that makes this such an interesting match-up. Unfortunately, due to 3 men in zebra uniforms running around the court being whistle happy (late whistle happy, on most occasions), these Finals have been frustrating more than anything. They are not fun. And it's not because the Celtics are losing 2 games to 1 (it certainly doesn't help). It's because it's hard to sit back and watch a game when there is a stoppage in play every 2 minutes (of real time). The only way to fix it is for the refs to take a step back, let the big men bang a little bit, and watch the fun happen. Only then will these finals once again be fun.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to go watch the second half of this 45 to 42 barn burner. I thought I'd got my wish for a smoother flowing game, but two fouls were just called in the first minute of the second half. Ah, the NBA. Maybe one day you'll understand...

Jason

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