Sorry I didn't have a new column up this morning, but the lack of cable television and internet at the new house are absolutely killing. I, however, just finished reading Simmons' latest column, and I had to sound off. First of all, you can find his column here: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060620
Okay, a few things when reflecting on his thoughts:
1) I think Bill is dead wrong about a Heat victory being a bad thing for the NBA. Yes, I love the free-willing style and the complete team concept of the Suns, Mavs, Clips, and other teams of that ilk. I think it's great for the game. But, the fact of the matter is that the single biggest reason David Stern has been the greatest sports commissioner of our lifetime is that he gets it. What is "it"? "It" is the fact that people go to arenas and tune in to watch stars! Stars have been and will always be the lifeblood of the NBA. Face it, there is no way I'm going to re-arrange my schedule to head down to Phillips Arena or turn on TNT to watch a Mavs regular season game. On the other hand, there is no freaking way I am ever going to miss a chance to watch D. Wade play in person again. In fact, I hate myself for not having already done it. Furthermore, given the choice between getting bombed at McDuff's on a Friday night in January, or watching D. Wade square off against the Warriors, well, I'm going to make sure I watch D. Wade before going out to get bombed. The point is that this league is now, and always has been about stars. The reason why the NBA was abysmal between 1999 and 2005 was that the best players were either boring as hell (Tim Duncan), amusing but not fully embracing their stardom (Shaq), or accused sex offenders (Kobe). Yes, the style of play is important, and makes the game more entertaining on a nightly basis, but the banner must be carried by the stars. And, right now, D. Wade is on the verge of grabbing the banner and running with it. He's the right guy, and if this happens, it can't be a bad thing. It simply can't!
2) I didn't see Game 5, so I can't say too much about the apparent officiating debacle. What I can say, however, is that nobody should be surprised. And, for God's sake, this has nothing to do with Stern's hatred of Cuban. If anything is at work here, it's the fact that NBA officials are TERRIBLE. Just go back and read my running diary of Game 3, and look at some of the absurd calls against the Heat. Yes, D. Wade might have gotten the benefit of some bad calls, but that happens when you force the action, create contact, and the refs aren't good enough to know the difference between a call and a no call. There is no conspiracy here. There is just simply poor officiating. Does that excuse Stern and the NBA? Hell no. One thing Bill gets right in his column is that the best officials should be doing the biggest games. No exceptions. Therefore, guys like Bennett Salvatore and Dick Bavetta should never be allowed near the NBA Finals.