Originally created 05/24/00

Miami: It's a vast NBA conspiracy

All you need to know about the differences between the NBA's playoffs and the NHL's playoffs could be found in a three-day stretch that ended Tuesday night.

In the NHL playoffs, you'll hardly hear an unshaven, unkempt Canadian defensemen claim, after a heartbreaking home loss to a heated rival, that the league has an inherent conspiracy brewing to have its big-market teams reach the finals, thereby slanting the officiating.

This appears common throughout the NBA, where the grapes in Miami appear the most sour. Hey, Elian's gone, get over it.

The newest stream of whine comes from the tall and overpaid members of the Miami Heat, where even leather-faced Pat Riley joined in the chorus of crybabies after being bounced by the New York Knicks again.

Leading the prosecution was ole Jim Garrison himself, guard Tim Hardaway. He launched several horrible shots during the seven-game train wreck, heaving his best shot at the NBA and referee Dick Bovetta.

During the waning moments of what appeared to be another Heat collapse, Hardaway screamed at Bovetta: "Quit cheating for the other side!"

Then, in the first few moments of his off-season, Hardaway blamed the NBA, Bovetta, Fidel Castro, Janet Reno, Tubbs, Crockett, even Spike Lee for what he considered a travesty of justice.

Hardaway begged NBA lord of discipline Rod Thorn to look into Bovetta, a native New Yorker known to hug and fraternize with friends sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden.

"Now you know why people call him `Knick Bovetta,"' Hardaway moaned.

This from a man who tried 20 shots Sunday to make six.

Even Jamal Mashburn, who missed 12 of 15 shots, had the audacity to claim the Knicks "had the three refs in their pockets."

There's nothing more tiring than the We Was Robbed campaign. Apparently Hardaway and Mashburn forgot they had 83 seconds and four possessions to try for one measly point to extend their season and failed.

Conspiracies long have been rumored throughout the NBA, especially when a certain Michael Jordan suited up and received every phantom whistle around. Yup, the Bulls won six titles because David Stern wouldn't have it any other way.

Funny, though, how you never hear Peter Forsberg and John LeClair carping about Gary Bettman deliberately aiding the Rangers or Red Wings with invisible obstruction calls.

In the NHL, it's difficult to bring a conference playoff game to a legal standstill with a "Hack-A-Quack" philosophy. Unless of course the coach is a sadist who enjoys saddling his goalie with an endless supply of power plays to kill.

Yet in the NBA, Portland's Mike Dunleavy jumped through a gaping loophole by ordering minor touch fouls on league MVP Shaquille O'Neal whenever the Lakers regained possession.

This led to a record 25 fourth-quarter free-throw attempts in Game 1 and an absurd number of televisions changing channels.

In the NHL, the final two minutes of play actually equate to about 120 seconds. Here's something you might want to try when watching the next NBA playoff game. At the two-minute mark, call Domino's and see which comes first: the pepperoni pie or the over-strategized final play.

In the NHL, the game-winning shot could come from anybody anywhere, anytime. Your hero could have Ray Bourque's Hall of Fame credentials or Andy Delmore's AHL credentials.

Watch consecutive NBA games (you need to catch only the fourth quarter) and chart how each of the four remaining teams uses one of three plays: the pick-and-roll, the dump-into-the-big-man and stand around, or the isolation.

Or, if you're not so lucky, the Hack-A-Shaq.

Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.


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