Print and Go Back ESPN.com: TrueHoop [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Reaction to Tales of Bennett Salvatore and Game 5


Yesterday's monster post about Bennett Salvatore's controversial call in Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals has gotten a lot of reaction. It's all over the map.

Lots of people sent me versions of the photo you see here.

Devin Harris fouls Dwyane Wade

See Devin Harris's hand? I was convinced -- although a lot of you weren't -- that Nowitzki's shove was enough to get Wade a place at the line.

But for the rest of you, I assume revisiting this photo (it was around in the days after the game) would do the trick.

This looks to me like Devin Harris deciding to make Wade prove it from the line, instead of giving up a layup to a truly gifted scorer around the basket.

Now I know that this series is about building confidence in NBA officials. And this hardly helps with that, as Harris wasn't called for the foul. One of a million follow-up questions I'd have for Salvatore, if he and the NBA would agree to talk to me again.

But my best guess is that the contact with Nowitzki occured first, and it's entirely possible that nobody saw this. I don't remember anybody seeing this contact when it was on television, certainly.

Basketball just is a very tough game to officiate.

Now, let's get into some more reactions.

For instance, among the Maverick fans on dallasbasketballdotcom, I don't think anyone was convinced that Nowitzki fouled Wade. Thurst0509 captured the mood nicely:

I can't even participate in this discussion. I'm getting too pissed off again.

Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com has lots of thoughts, including this:

Why didn't the NBA release this video angle right away, to demonstrate to viewers that Dirk did indeed foul Wade? Well, I'll tell you why: Because it shows no such thing. It "suggests'' something. But proves nothing.

Lots of people all over the web point out that Wade just went to the line a ton all series long, which is tough to address without specifics. By way of specifics, this video was offered by Shmir05. So bad it's funny.

JKotsil commented that this possession was not the key play of the series:

The key calls that went against Dallas in this series were two. First, the offensive rebound by Shaq in Game 3, when he clearly, blatantly pushed off on Erick Dampier. It was with about two minutes left and Miami down 5. Amazingly he made both free-throws making it a one possession game. An offensive foul on Shaq there would have effectively killed Miami's amazing comeback. The other one was a mind-boggling foul called on Nowitzki when HE was pushed by Wade with 30 seconds left in game 6 and Miami up 1. The ensuing free-throws practically iced the game.

Justinweis1976 writes:

If you can't accept the absolute proof showing the still shot of Harris fouling Wade with both hands, one pushing Wade in the back and one holding Wade's arm, in addition to the video evidence Henry supplied, then you are a Mavs or Suns fan that cannot handle the truth.

Dannyj03231980 writes:

Hey I am a die hard Mavs fan. But the Mavs completely blew that series. They had the chance to wrap it up in a sweep and let D-Wade take over. So be it. You can't go back and change it. Were there some BS calls, of course. But the Mavs have to get over it.

Radical Reactionary says:

On closer watching in super-slo-mo you can see Wade pull out a small crowbar and crack Nowitzki with it as he goes by. Then Wade falls, because it's the only way to slip it back under his jersey unobserved by the refs.

TrueHoop reader Jim really needs his own opportunity to interview Bennett Salvatore:

Looks to me like Wade exaggerates his body motion as soon as he feels any contact from Dirk. Smart play on his part, one which the two closest refs didn't fall for. ... Did Salvatore have an explanation of why the other two refs did not see or make the call he made? Did he state whether they agreed with his call in their immediate post-game review? What did other league personnel tell him in the immediate aftermath? What did crew chief Joey Crawford tell him immediately after the game?

TrueHoop reader ADyer is not buying the league's case that the inbounds pass was not over and back:

A player jumping from out-of-bounds to inbounds to catch that same pass from Payton must first establish positive position inbounds by putting a foot there (and not touching out of bounds) before touching the ball. When bringing the ball up the floor during normal play, a player receiving a pass from another player who is in the frontcourt must also establish himself in the frontcourt by touching it (and not touch backcourt) before touching the ball.

The special provision (Rule 4, Section VI) that allows the ball to be thrown into the backcourt from out-of-bounds does not also invalidate the normal rule of positive position.

The interpretation appears to be that until the player (Wade) receives the pass, the midcourt line does not exist; otherwise it would matter where Wade was before touching the ball. On the other hand, the League states that since Wade was in the air when touching the ball (something difficult to determine) he was not in the frontcourt, thus reestablishing the midcourt line during the throw-in.

The League is hopelessly confused in its ruling. In the case of a player coming from out-of-bounds, he is the player with the ball even though he does not have it during the throw-in. It's a commonplace event, yet the case of Game 5 that logic is thrown out the window.

While the ref has the prerogative to make the call -- and the League has the right to stand by it -- it in no way is consistent or correct."

Dwood 61625 echoed a thousand high school referees when he commented:

If you don't want the refs to determine the outcome of a game, then do your job and blow out your opponent.

If a game is close at the end, then there's no one to blame but youself if a call or non-call goes against you. Refs are human, and they are going to make some mistakes ... especially in sports like basketball where there is a lot of contact and fast action.

And one last thought, that came out of a discussion of this play: yesterday I flirted with the notion that superstars on the drive in crunch time get the benefit of calls. Period.

An honest question arose. Can anyone cite me an example of a superstar on the drive in crunch time of a big game getting called for an offensive foul? I'm sure it has happened, and I've seen it in games that aren't important. But can anyone remember it ever happening in an historic moment? 

Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

UPDATE: Here's one from TrueHoop reader Matt:

On Christmas Day 2000 -- about six months after the Blazers' game 7 collapse against the Lakers, Portland returned to the Staples Center for the rematch. In the final minutes -- and with Portland either tied or leading by a slim margin -- Kobe Bryant drove to the hoop, ran down Rasheed Wallace and laid the ball in. The crowd went nuts ... until it saw the referee pointing downcourt and waving off the basket. Kobe was whistled for the offensive foul. As a lifelong Bl
azers fan, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes. I still have a hard time comprehending it sometimes.