Sorry, this post is off topic. No poker, no Vegas, no parking, no boobies.
I just have to vent a little on the NBA championship series that was decided on Sunday. If you aren't interested in basketball, my apologies You can skip this and come back in a few days, when I'm sure I'll be talking about something more in line with my usual subject matter.
But now I must vent. Where better to do that than on my own blog? Of course I've vented a about sports a few times here before, so this is not a first.
As you know, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in a thrilling game 7, beating the Golden State Warriors on the Warriors' home court, becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the finals to win the title. Also, they had to win two of the three games on the road to do it.
Let me be clear. I am not a Warriors fan. I was rooting for them against the Cavs, but the team I live and die for is not the Warriors but the Lakers. But the Lakers have sucked lately, so I couldn't live and die for them this year. There have been times when both the Lakers and Warriors had great teams and they had a pretty intense rivalry, and you can bet I wanted to see the Warriors buried by the Lakers.
But for now, I was mildly favoring the Warriors. They are fun to watch and broke the record for best regular season record in league history, a phenomenal effort.
I am upset not as a Warriors fan, but as a basketball fan.
And by the way, before the series started, I tweeted this out: "If I was one of those sports betting degens, I'd bet on the Cavs to win the series at +180. I think they are 50/50 to win."
No, the point of this post isn't to brag about being (sorta) right. I did got some feedback telling me I was crazy and that the Warriors would win easy. I take no pride in saying it would be close and that Cleveland was the way to bet. Sports are unpredictable, that's what makes them so exciting.
It's just that the basketball is my favorite sport, especially the NBA variety, and I really am pissed about the way this played out.
To show you how much I love basketball, I will tell you that I got to Vegas on Thursday, the night of game 6. I delayed poker until after I watched the entire game in my room. Sunday night, I was in my room watching the game again, instead of playing poker. Note: I prefer watching a game like this in my living room (temporary or otherwise) rather than in a poker room, sports book, or bar. It's just too distracting. Note: Yes, I've watched Super Bowls while playing poker, that shows you how much I prefer basketball to football.
So after the final game, a real nail-biter that wasn't decided until the final seconds, I tweeted out these two tweets: "Great game, Cavs & LeBron earned it....but series is forever asterisked by bonehead NBA front office decision to change course of series," and "So congrats to the NBA Front Office for their hard earned NBA Championship."
If you're still reading, I assume you know what I'm referring to. One of Golden State's key players, Draymond Green was suspended for game 5, which was the turning point in the series. One of my pals, loyal blog reader (and guest blogger) Nick, responded, via Twitter, "Huh? Stop it. #conspiracytheories." Nick assumed I was buying into the argument that the NBA somehow "fixed" the series to add a few more games to the finals, to make more money and create more excitement. To be clear, I have always thought such theories are total bullshit. No professional sports league would risk their reputation, their credibility and even their license to operate by rigging games like that. That's what we have professional wrestling for.
No it wasn't the NBA intentionally fixing the outcome of the series. The outcome was decided (and changed) by a really boneheaded decision based on an even more boneheaded rule.
The NBA has two similar rules that I despise, and that are so moronic I honestly don't understand how anyone with an IQ above 23 could think they're good ideas. Once the playoffs starts, players who get above a certain number of technical fouls, or so-called "flagrant" fouls, will be suspended for the next playoff game. I'm too lazy and mostly too irate to look up the number. To me, it is obvious that If a player hurts his team in a game with a technical foul or a flagrant foul, and possibly even gets kicked out of that game for it, that penalty itself is more than sufficient. If it's not, change it and give two free throws for a tech, give four free throws for a flagrant. The issue needs to be decided within the game they are playing, not carried over. Put it on the coach to decide if a player who keeps giving away points with his play or mouth is worth being in the lineup.
But the rules exist and going into game 4, Green—no less than the second or third best player on the team—was one flagrant foul away from the magic number where he would have to sit a game.
Late in that game—an easy win for the Warriors—he got all tangled up with LeBron James, the best player on the Cavs (and also the best player on the planet, sorry Steph Curry). Basically, James, a very, very strong man, threw Green (not exactly a lightweight himself) to the ground. And then—in an act that is known in the NBA as a sign of disrespect—stepped over him. Green, from his prone position reached out with his hand and made some extremely minimal contact with James, and appeared to hit him in the groin area.
The play was reviewed during the game. The officials are allowed to look at the replays to decide if any other action needs to be taken, be it a technical foul, a flagrant foul (of which there are two varieties, one of which means automatic ejection), or no call. The officials on the floor did not rule it flagrant foul. The game went on.
After the game, James whined about it a bit. The contact was so minimal that he had no idea where Green "hit" him until a reporter showed him the play on his cell phone. So James whined about it some more, making a mountain out of a molehill. I repeat….James didn't know Green hit him (if he even made contact) in the balls until he saw the replay on a cell phone.
So the next day, the NBA office reviewed it, and retroactively made Green's "punch" a flagrant foul, earning Green an automatic suspension for game 5. They should really have called it a "fragrant foul"—because it really stinks.
Of course there's some history here. Green is a tough customer and this wasn't the first time he'd made contact with a player's family jewels. In the previous series, while completing a shot, he "accidentally" kicked a player there after getting fouled by him. The league reviewed that one as well, and although it could have—and probably should have, based on the moronic league rules they have—suspended him for the following game in that series, they did not.
So basically, this was a "make-up" call by the league. Those happen all the time in NBA games. An official realizes he missed a call, and the next time down the court, he sees a phantom call to make up for it. This was a "make-up" call. In the earlier series, the guy Green kicked was not one of the two most important players on the team. Of course, LeBron is the league's biggest name, even if Steph Curry has won the last two MVP awards.
I can't express how reprehensible this.
It is insane to me that the league ever, and I mean ever, retroactively overturns a ruling made the officiating crew at the game. That game is over, move on to the next. The officials at the game have the best insight about what happened. They not only saw the game live, they heard it, the felt it, they understood the dynamics of what lead to it. Plus, as I said, they also have the benefit seeing it replayed before they make their final decision, just as the idiots in the league office do.
My feeling here is that if the officials at the game can't make the right call during the game, fire them and get better officials. The officials at the game didn't think it was flagrant, so it wasn't a flagrant foul. Period.
Another thing. In general, I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns ever suspending a player from a playoff game. It is brain dead. The playoffs for any sport is that league's showcase. You want to have the best players available to play. Period. As far as I'm concerned, no player (in any sport, really, but the NBA is the only I care about this much) should "ever" be suspended for a future game for actions in a previous game. I put ever in quotes because I suppose if a player took a chair and smashed it over the back of an official during the game, I might make an exception. But only then.
No, what they should do, if a player really does something so egregious that a suspension is warranted, is suspend the guy for games at the beginning of the next season. I'd rather see a guy suspended for 20 games to start the next season than for one playoff game when so much is on line. Suspending players for a playoff game is not fair to the teammates—and also not far for the fans, who expect to see the best the league has to offer and who expect that the games will be decided on the court.
This is not the first time this has happened. There was a Knicks-Heat series years ago that was changed due to big brawl, resulting in mass suspensions, that completely changed the course of the series. More recently, the Suns were about to defeat the Spurs in a series when their best player was suspended for a key game due to a strict interpretation of the stupid "leaving the bench" rule. The Spurs went on to win that series, and the title, and I always considered that title for the Spurs to be tainted. And poor Phoenix was denied their chance to actually win an NBA title.
I hated those decisions then, and I hate them now. My conclusion is that the NBA is a beautiful game run by fucking morons.
So in the current series, the Warriors, at home, lost game 5 without Green. Green returned for game 6, which was in Cleveland, and the Warriors lost there too. Worse, one of their players, Andre Iquodala, hurt his back and was not effective later in the game, and might have been inhibited in game 7 too, He was only the MVP in the finals for the Warriors last year. Worst of all, their starting center, Andrew Bogut, was hurt too, and he was unable to play at all in game 7. He doesn't play a lot of minutes, but his absence weakened their bench and their rotation and forced them to play Festus Ezeli for those minutes, who was awful in game 7. The fact is, the Warriors would have been no worse off if I had played those minutes instead of Ezeli.
And so…in a really thrilling game that was a treat to watch, to be sure, the Cavs won on the road. They deserved to win game 7 (and 6), no question about it. But did they deserve to win game 5? We'll never really know, will we? The game was decided in New York, not in Oakland. Game 5 was the pivotal game, the game where the series turn. Did it turn because the Cavs just got that much better--or did it turn because a key player was artificially removed from the game?
It isn't fair to the Warriors, and it isn't fair to the fans. I don't mean the Warriors fans, I mean the basketball fans like me who want to see the game decided by the players.
You know who else it isn't fair to? The Cleveland Cavaliers. Because the Cavs might very well have won game 5 even if Green had played—and wouldn't that have been awesome? And then we would have known that they really earned that victory. And that Cleveland is truly a deserving champion.
But we don't know that because of some asshat in the NBA office. Some dipshit who thinks he's more important than the integrity of the sport, and of the playoffs. The MVP of the series is not LeBron James, but Adam Silver (commissioner of the NBA).
I know some of you are saying, "what about injuries? They can decide games too." Absolutely. But injuries are part of the game and can't be helped. In fact, Cleveland had several major injuries last year when they played the Warriors, so it wasn't a fair fight. That's why it would have been so great to see the rematch with both teams at full strength. We almost got to see that, and then the suits interfered.
Cleveland has it's championship, and no one can take it away from them. But for the knowledgeable basketball fans, their victory will always have an "asterisk." It is a tainted championship in my eyes.
To sum it up, it is both bad rules and bad interpretation of those rule that have earned my ire.