For the NBA, It's a Question of Integrity

Sean CroweSenior Writer IMarch 8, 2009

Far be it for me to question the integrity of the National Basketball Association, but after the last two days of Cleveland Cavaliers' games, let’s just say I have my doubts that everything’s on the up-and-up.

First, you have a game against the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics dominated the Cavs in the paint, while the Cavs repeatedly settled for outside jump shots. Typically, when something like this happens, the team taking the ball to the paint ends up at the free throw line more often than the one settling for jump shots.

Not this time.

The Cavs took 38 free throws to the Celtics 12. And it was BAD. Very bad. Bad enough that the ESPN announcers talked about it, and the Celtics home (TV and Radio) announcers both openly questioned the integrity of the officials calling the game.

Tommy Heinsohn, admittedly not known for his impartiality, actually said that in his opinion, something didn’t smell right with the officiating crew, and the NBA should immediately investigate what’s going on.

He's been known to question officials before, but I've never (in nearly 20 years of watching) heard him go as far as he went on Friday night.

Much to the NBA's apparent dismay, the Celtics were able to beat King James and the Cavs even with the free throw disparity and without Kevin Garnett playing. Not sure what that says about the Cavs, but it says a heck of a lot about that Celtics team.

Then came Saturday. Another game where the Cavs had almost twice as many free throw attempts as their opponent (25 to the Heat’s 15). Another questionably officiated game.

The whole thing was capped off by a Dwyane Wade drive where he was leveled by apparent super star Anderson Varejao while the official, rather than calling a foul, started clapping, called a few technicals on Miami, ejected Wade, then asked King James for his autograph.

Remember that game on Feb. 10 against Indiana that ended with a foul called on LeBron James? I’d bet my entire life savings (admittedly, with the way the stock market is, it’d be a small bet) that the NBA came down like a ton of bricks on that officiating crew.

How DARE they call a foul late in the game on The King? Are you KIDDING? He’s King Freaking James!

Since that game, the Cavs have attempted more free throws than their opponents in all but three games. They’ve averaged almost 10 more free throws per game than their opponents. And, as we’ve witnessed in the last two games, there are very few fouls called against them in crunch time.

Even super stars like Wade and Paul Pierce don’t get calls, while lesser players like Varejao and Mo Williams get calls as if they were an extension of King James.

Like I said, far be it for me to question the integrity of the NBA. But this goes beyond the super star getting every call. This is borderline game fixing.

Which, actually, is far more comforting than the alternative—complete and utter incompetence.