Bending Rules for Perkins, Celtics Hurts NBA's Image
It's because of rulings like Thursday's, allowing Celtics center Kendrick Perkins to play in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic. It's not a surprising move by the NBA -- it was almost expected -- and it certainly feeds the conspiracy theory.
A Lakers/Celtics Finals is best for everyone.
It's called selective enforcement of the rules, which the league has mastered, which leads to improving the odds of one team over another. Is it right? No. Does it happen? It just did.
The league did itself no favors with this one, taking back the technical foul it called against Perkins Wednesday night in Game 5, which allows him to play Friday.
Why does it have a rule that triggers an automatic one-game suspension when a player reaches seven technical fouls in the playoffs if exceptions like this are made without explanation?
This is entertainment, that's why. It's not just about competition. It's show business, television ratings and encouraging outcomes for the overall good of the league. Perkins sitting in street clothes isn't good for the league if the Celtics get stomped in Boston.
Why is a technical foul on Wednesday not a technical foul on Thursday? Did Perkins take back his boorish, childish behavior that prompted the technical in the first place? Or did official Eddie Rush forget that Perkins already had one technical earlier in the game, leaving him one slip away from an automatic suspension?
Either way, it shouldn't matter. Massaging the rules in the middle of a series is so blatantly wrong, it makes the NBA look like the WWE.
This wasn't like a personal foul being upgraded to a flagrant when the league office reviews the hit and realizes it was more egregious than first thought. This was typical bad sportsmanship that warrants a technical foul every time. It shouldn't matter when or where it happens, just like late-game calls shouldn't be any different than first-quarter calls.
You could almost read the reaction on Rush's face -- Oops -- after making the call, then going over to explain to Celtics coach Doc Rivers that Perkins was being ejected for his second technical foul of the game.
The suspension would have left the Celtics Friday without their starting center, leaving them only with Glen Davis, whose availability will be a game-time decision after sustaining a concussion, and graying Rasheed Wallace, whose back is sore.
"I'm not surprised,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy after learning that the technical foul had been rescinded. He obviously disagreed with the ruling, but he declined to comment further.
Rivers wasn't surprised, either. Both have been around the league long enough to know how it works, accustomed to seeing rulings like this level the playing field.
"I think it was the right decision,'' Rivers said. "I'm kind of disappointed that both technicals weren't rescinded, but I'll take one.''
Even though fans repeatedly frown over NBA players who complain about every foul call against them -- setting a horrible example for young athletes watching -- the league has continued to encourage the bad examples that Perkins and others have set.
Dwight Howard of the Magic often is equally guilty of disrespecting officials, but his technical fouls have been under control in the playoffs. If Perkins can't control himself enough to stay under the seven-technical limit, he should be sitting out a game.
He shouldn't need the league to bend its rules to keep the Celtics alive. It only hurts the NBA's image even more. If the Celtics win the series now, you better believe the howling will begin again.
Actually, it already started. Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who spent a year in prison for his role in an illegal betting operation, was on a Central Florida radio station Thursday, fueling that conspiracy theory.
"David Stern has a better chance of losing 50 pounds than Orlando and Phoenix have of reaching the NBA Finals,'' Donaghy said on the Tuck and O'Neil Show when asked about Perkins and his technical foul. "There's no doubt, it's going to be Boston and L.A. in the Finals.''