Zuri Berry: Let’s hope Lakers vs. Celtics is legit | TheUnion.com

Zuri Berry: Let’s hope Lakers vs. Celtics is legit

The greatest playoff season this millennium is coming to a hilt as the Los Angeles Lakers face the Boston Celtics Thursday in the NBA finals.

And this time, it’s imperative the end result doesn’t become lost in controversy.

Last year, too many NBA fans, including myself in particular, were outraged at the bogus calls made in the Western Conference finals as the San Antonio Spurs downed the Phoenix Suns en route to winning its fourth NBA championship in 10 years.

At the time, all we could grumble about were the same old blown calls and inefficient referees that cumulated in the destruction of a great display of competition.

What transpired didn’t seem fair and that was enough to stick with folks as they watched the Spurs dismantle a young Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.

Now, post-Tim Donaghy, the NBA is looking to turn the wheels of progress toward a scandal-free summer in which its integrity is not a central issue anymore.

The evidence of change has been blatant in its turn, I say, for the better.

Last week, the Lakers stepped away from the venerable Spurs, wrestling away game 4 after a controversial “no-call” on L.A. guard Derek Fisher as Brent Barry shot a desperation 3-pointer.

Those refs, particularly Joe Crawford, weren’t about to decide the game for us. Instead, the players will decide who wins this championship – however dirty it gets. The Eastern Conference Finals were a prime example of that.

Unfortunately, the only thing that’s not guaranteed in this form of thinking, and surreptitious policy, is the consistency.

Case in point: Spurs vs. Suns in Round 1. In my unscientific count, there were five missed calls that went in the Spurs favor. Two of which were possession calls. There’s nothing to point to that says this was on purpose, but at the same time there’s plenty of fodder to make noise about discrepancies every game. It just gets magnified when it’s the Spurs and the Suns.

(What’s up with the Spurs getting the benefit of faulty refs?)

Either way, it’s important that controversy, a.k.a. blown calls, aren’t the center of attention.

If David Stern’s hope is to get a dream matchup in the finals, he’s already succeeded, as conspiracy theorists continue to suggest. So are we also to expect that there will be no more shenanigans?

In respect to what has been an admirable season and an amicable postseason, Stern and his lot need to stick to the party line and that means laissez-faire refs with openness on mistakes and dishonesty.

So far, the league’s rebuke of Crawford’s no-call falls in line with the party, but it falls short of keeping the controversy out of the playoffs.

It should be duly noted that the NBA’s announcement that it will begin to fine floppers is another step in the right direction.

But it’s only the end result that matters.

So when you tune into the playoffs this week and next, you shouldn’t be worrying about if somebody has an upper hand because they’re at home. You should be worrying about if the star player of choice is making the buckets he’s supposed to.

But if the last year hasn’t affected anything, that notion is a foreign concept.

Zuri Berry is a sports at The Union. His column appears Wednesdays. Contact him via e-mail at zberry@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.

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