THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Courtside chatter

League makes a dubious officiating call

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 11, 2010

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Does the NBA really want the discussion at the Finals to focus on the officials? With a curious choice of referees for Game 4, it certainly seems so.

The league selected Eddie F. Rush (of the infamous Kendrick Perkins ejection), Scott Foster (a onetime close friend of Tim Donaghy), and Finals neophyte Greg Willard, meaning that if anything controversial happened last night, the conspiracy theorists would be screaming like girls at a Justin Bieber concert.

The last time Celtics fans saw Rush, he was pinning Perkins with two first-half technicals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. To review: Rush called a double technical on Perkins and Orlando center Marcin Gortat after Perkins tried to help Paul Pierce to his feet after a foul.

Now, Perkins said his arm slipped and his elbow flew back and made contact with Gortat, who responded by using his fist to pop the ball out of Perkins’s arm. Whether Perkins intentionally elbowed Gortat will likely never be known, but Rush assumed he did.

Midway through the second quarter, Perkins disputed a reach-in foul and was given a second technical.

Some observers believe Rush forgot that he had assessed Perkins that early double technical, but he could do nothing to reverse the call, and Perkins was ejected.

The NBA rescinded the second call the next morning.

Foster, meanwhile, was linked to Donaghy during the time the disgraced former official was admitting to betting on NBA games. Donaghy made 134 calls to Foster between October 2006 and April 2007, with several calls reported to be two minutes or less.

But the NBA cleared Foster of any wrongdoing and said Donaghy acted alone in betting on games. Donaghy served part of a 15-month prison sentence for charges related to gambling on NBA games.

Foster has continued to work without any controversy, but he is a curious choice for the Finals.

Game officials are chosen by merit and experience, and the 12-man Finals rotation was drawn from a 36-man postseason crew. Rush, Foster, and Willard were the final three of the 12 to work the Finals.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said his issues with the officiating in this series are nothing unusual compared with his previous 12 Finals.

“It’s always contentious,’’ he said. “There’s been a little more focus perhaps this time. Perhaps some of it has been the undercurrent of the past, but it’s always a contention.

“What we like to say to the players is you play beyond the refereeing, you play above the refereeing. If you get caught up in the refereeing, then you are doing a disservice to the game and to our game particularly.

“So you play beyond it and play the game according to how it’s going to be refereed.’’

Rondo to play Vegas?
Rajon Rondo has yet to accept an invitation to participate in next month’s USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas. He attributed that to playing phone tag with chairman Jerry Colangelo. Rondo has never expressed enthusiasm about playing for Team USA, but with his playoff success, the invitation remains open.

“I don’t know if that’s been fully determined yet,’’ said Rondo’s agent, Bill Duffy. “We don’t want to disturb him with that at this point. We can wait until the series is over and then he can broach that. It’s my understanding [that the door is still open].’’

Meanwhile, Rondo’s emergence in the playoffs has improved his marketability, and Duffy said he will approach his client with new opportunities. Rondo has been a reluctant pitchman, limiting his endorsements to Red Bull and Nike.

“His profile has definitely increased,’’ Duffy said. “There’s a lot more interest in him — not that that’s a priority, but you certainly want to capitalize on what he’s deserving of. So our job is to present him with these opportunities, and it’s up to him to participate in it or choose not to.

“He doesn’t really care about that, so it’s more of us pushing him for some of these accolades or whatnot. So it’s a little bit challenging, but we respect him and he’s first and foremost a basketball player and we always respect what it is that he wants to do and not what our agenda is.’’

Mean time
The relationship between Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce dates to when Bryant was a rookie for the Lakers and Pierce was playing at Kansas. They clashed on many occasions during those famous summer games at UCLA. Former UCLA standout Marques Johnson remembers those games.

“The thing I found interesting about Paul in the first [series against the Lakers in 2008] is Kobe was trying to slap Paul’s leg and be friendly and Paul just mean-mugged him,’’ Johnson said. “Paul gave him a look like, ‘This is all business,’ and when I saw that, I knew the Lakers were in trouble.’’

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com.

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