Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Passion of the Pax

Much has been made over the past few days regarding the Bulls shoddy treatment by the referees in the Dallas game. I have pretty much maintained a cynical point of view believing that NBA refs are what they are and they have their tendencies. And one of those tendencies is the star treatment. The Bulls have no stars, so they should expect few breaks.

I heard on WSCR today that GM John Paxson was going ballistic after the game about the team's lack of respect by the officials. The initial shock of blowing that game probably led to this outburst, so I'll chalk it up to simply defending his team. The fact remains though that if the Bulls want calls, they have to be earned. It may not be right, but its the truth. And if they start winning consistently the calls will come.

And in some respects I understand the ref's point of view. I've never officiated a basketball game (I was a soccer referee for 5 years though), but I can imagine it being insanely difficult. With the speed and power of NBA players the need arises for calls to be anticipated. And corners like favoring the stars need to be taken sometimes.

I want to add something to this from Sam Smith's book 'The Jordan Rules". You may not believe it, but  I haven't read it before, and for those who don't know it details the first Championship season of 1990-91. So far it's pretty fascinating stuff (I'll provide a full review when I finish),  especially today when I came across this passage about one John Paxson:

"[Paxson]'s reputation with the referees was no laughing matter to him. He is slower than many of the guards he faces, so he often gets beaten and ends up fouling. His reputation for being a slow player who doesn't jump well had created an attitude among many referees that if there is contact, it is initiated by Paxson. And it doesn't help that Paxson has been considered a marginal player throughout most of his career.

"You get tired of all this star stuff," says Paxson. "I know I can play pretty good defense, and then if I'm a step to the side it's a call. I know I ought to keep my mouth shut, but when you're out there those things bother you." And more often than not, Paxson complicates the situation by loudly pleading his case.

"He's got a reputation for challenging the referees," notes [then coach Phil] Jackson, "and they don't like it. So he probably needs to take the calls and live with it."

I know, what are the odds that I would come across those pages today.

Pax obviously knows that this star system of officiating has existed for a while, but perhaps has never gotten over it. That said, he wouldn't have become the player he was if he let his opinion of NBA officiating get the best of him. It would serve the team best if Paxson takes the Zen master's advice and maintained a cool head, otherwise his players may start worrying more about the whistles than the wins. 

Speaking of wins......the Bulls beat the Grizzlies in Memphis tonight 96-88.

I couldn't see the game, thanks to Dish Network and Comcast Sports Net. Most of you probably thought that my beef with them was old news, since I hadn't mentioned it lately. But due to games either being shown on WGN, WCIU, or me being there in person, I haven't had a problem in a while. Apparently the two sides had a deal in place, but then Comcast pulled out. Or at least that's what the dish people told me, so maybe I'd get a different story from another source. Either way, I doubt this would be happening if the Bulls weren't at their customary place at the bottom of the standings.

But maybe that status will change. The real lean part of the schedule is coming up, and its hard not to notice that this should be their 3rd win in a row against teams that made the Western Conference playoffs last season.  I for one am happy that the trade deadline isn't till February. Plenty of time to find out if maybe that horrible start to the season was not the true reflection of this team.

So check out the newspapers links on the left for game analysis. And there's always comments. What did you guys see last night that was encouraging?