Friday, December 17, 2010

Ginobili, the new MJ?

I have long lamented the endemically inconsistent or unfair foul calls in the NBA. Though I write often of other b-ball matters, the titular inspiration for our blog was, of course, a non-call that burnished a great man's legend while telling Utah's fan base that their team is simply less worthy of rule-based protection. A two-game sequence this week led us to re-evaluate the state of "star calls" in the NBA.

In Wednesday night's game against Milwaukee, the Spurs' Manu Ginobili hit a game-winning shot over Luc Mbah a Moute to break a tie at the buzzer. MG's play was fearless and without flaw. The problem with Saint Anthony's miracle, though, is that Ginobili took a step and a hop (even more egregious than LeBron James's "crab dribble") prior to his shot, and the referees bizarrely did not call a travel. In postgame remarks, Bucks coach Skiles correctly identified Ginobili's infraction after the game, but unfortunately, the refs done him wrong. Behold the video:

Perhaps this might simply mean that the referees froze under pressure. It happens sometimes, and there is no recourse if the referee fails to blow his whistle in the moment. Once the buzzer has sounded and the ball is through, you cannot go back in time and claw back a player's ill-gotten gains, even if you feel instant regret for your failure to toot. However, I was further surprised during Thursday night's TNT nightcap game. Against Denver, Ginobili hit yet another clutch shot to put the Spurs up by 1 point with about four seconds left in the fourth quarter. The man impresses, On the ensuing possession, Carmelo Anthony took the ball at the top of the key, seized a step on Richard Jefferson, drove to the hoop, and released a floater that sank through the net before time expired. Unfortunately, in the course of so doing, Anthony crashed into Ginobili, who had smartly positioned himself in a vertical stance just outside the charge circle. The referees whistled Anthony for an offensive foul, negating Anthony's basket and ending the game. The Spurs escaped with their 22nd win of the season, against only three defeats. Here is the [virtual] tape:

The Thursday foul was a good call, and I applaud the referees' willingness to whack Anthony on a late-game drive like that. As the archetypal "Jordan pushing off" moment (and LBJ's crab dribble) shows, referees are too often chary to interrupt a superstar's world-historical performance for a measly thing like rule-breaking. Jordan may have pushed off with impunity, but Anthony charged through and suffered just consequences. That is heartening. On the other hand, this incident came after Ginobili received a significant official favor the night before. Although these are only two data points, perhaps one can infer that star favoritism endures, but it is Ginobili and his 22-3 Spurs who now are the most brilliantly shining orb. We cannot fault (indeed, we must laud) Ginobili for donning that garb; success must be had wherever one can find it.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Yep, it was absolutely a travel the other night. It was also odd that they called the charge on Melo. I tend to think it was just a blown call, given where the ref's eyes were the night before, but it might be star preference.

Full disclosure: I'm a huge Spurs fan.