Crawford v Duncan: Everyone Loses
Sunday’s preview of the Western Conference Finals was shaping up to be a game for the ages, a hard fought battle between the two best teams in the league. Then petty squabbling between a star player and a veteran referee ruined everything.
For those who missed it — anyone? — Tim Duncan was ejected late in the third quarter after being called for two technical fouls less than two minutes apart by veteran referee Joey Crawford.
The Mavs won, but it must have been bittersweet for the fans and for the players. Dallas trailed 68-74 when Duncan was ejected, and weren’t able to come back and tie the game until just 1:15 remained. Even without their MVP, the Spurs almost held on to win.
It was a great game to watch. An AP writer commented, “By the third quarter, the intensity was reminiscent of their thrilling second-round playoff series last year.” I agree. Too bad it was ruined by an official with an axe to grind. The ejection was only the second in future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan’s 746-game career.
What exactly did Tim Duncan say or do to deserve the technicals? Not much, according to Tim:
“Joey knew exactly what he was doing. He came into this game with a personal vendetta against me. It had to be. Because I didn’t do anything the entire the game.”
“He’s obviously got a personal problem with me.”
Duncan said that he told the official, “I got fouled on the shot,” and had nothing else to say to him until he got ejected.
What’s more, Duncan insisted that Crawford became so belligerent with him on the floor that he challenged him to a fight.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?‘ ” Duncan said. “If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don’t have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, ‘Do you want to fight?’ “
Before Duncan delivered these charges at his locker after the game, Crawford defended himself to a pool reporter. When it was suggested that Duncan believed he had said nothing to deserve the ejection, Crawford said, “That’s his opinion. He said nothing when he was walking off the court and he called me a piece of [blank]? Is that nothing?”
“… He’s complaining. He was constantly complaining. He was complaining when he was on the court. Then he got on the bench and kept doing the same stuff. So I just ejected him.”
“I don’t know what else he wants me to do? If he wants camera time, he’s going to call the techs and get the camera time he wants,” Duncan said. “… I guess I can’t laugh anymore. I guess I can’t enjoy the game anymore. I’ve got to sit there and put my head between my legs.”
While Steve Kerr and others lay blame squarely on the shoulders of Crawford — I agree that ejecting Duncan was excessive — I’m not so sure that Duncan is completely innocent either.
The NBA directed its refs this season to crack down on excessive complaining, and Tim has been a complainer his whole career. It could be my imagination, but it seems he’s been disputing calls even more frequently this season. Can you blame Crawford for doing his job? Well, yes, actually, you can.
The worst part of this whole flareup is that no one wins and everyone loses. Crawford has been suspended indefinitely and may not be back for a 32nd season wearing NBA pinstripes. Duncan was fined $25,000 and his reputation as a whiner has been validated, at least in the eyes of the media and non-Spurs fans.
Lord knows, Tim will be under close scrutiny during the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if some refs look forward to the opportunity to punish Duncan for getting one of their elder statesman summarily ejected. Then again, Duncan might just get a free pass throughout the playoffs, too. We’ll know more in a week.
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