It’s 2014 and we’re still talking about Joey Crawford and his “tactics” as an NBA referee. The 62-year-old, polarizing official has already left his mark (twice) on the NBA playoffs this year and we’re not nearly done with the first round yet. Heck, folks are already starting to call Crawford’s actions “defense” against some of the game’s best scorers.
In a pivotal Game 5 matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies, Kevin Durant went to the line for a game-tying free throw with 27.5 seconds left in overtime. After Durant spun the ball and took a dribble in preparation, Crawford blew his whistle and ran at the OKC star like a maniac, grabbed the ball and then held up the game because the scoreboard was displaying the wrong number of team fouls.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Crawford essentially closed out on Stephen Curry when the Golden State Warriors’ guard took a three-point shot — which he missed — against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 4 of that series. The Warriors went on to win the game, but Crawford’s “defense” went viral online nonetheless.
On the OKC debacle, it’s not crazy to argue Crawford’s egotistic, flamboyant tactics changed the outcome of the game. Even if there was no foul play whatsoever, he was still the biggest storyline from the game and that’s definitely not what the NBA wants or needs. It’s safe to say commissioner Adam Silver would agree considering the monumental decision he made regarding the Donald Sterling episode on Tuesday.
The question of Crawford’s character isn’t off the table; these definitely aren’t the first negative incidents involving him on a big stage:
– He tried to fight Tim Duncan in 2007.
– He called then-Portland Trail Blazers center Marcus Camby for a foul on then-Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash when the two players were almost 30 feet apart on the floor and then argued with then-Blazers coach Nate McMillan after the unbelievable blunder in 2010.
– After then-Boston Celtics guard Sasha Pavlovic took two elbows from Carmelo Anthony on Christmas Day in 2011, Crawford called a technical on Pavlovic instead of Melo.
– In 2010, he called a technical foul on then-Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes, who was simply trying to hand Crawford the ball after a whistle.
If you’re a political digger, Crawford was also charged with a filing a false income tax return in 1998 and pleaded guilty to pocketing cash when his referee air fare was downgraded. He pocketed over $80,000 in that scandal and resigned from the NBA, although he was reinstated six years later by then-commissioner David Stern.
Again, regardless of whether or not Crawford does or doesn’t have his own agenda when it comes to officiating NBA games, he’s a problem. Nobody other than a player or coach should ever be the story of any particular game, yet Crawford breaks that rule on a regular basis and not only doesn’t appear bothered by it, but almost seems to enjoy it.
In the spirit of transparency, I’ll admit it: I had Joey Crawford third on my Defensive Player of the Year ballot.
— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 30, 2014
Did he intentionally try to throw off Durant and Curry? Probably not, but the fact he did in both cases is an issue. His “maneuver” in the video with Curry is questionable at worst; why did he have to get by Curry, turn toward him during the process and throw up a hand in his face to make the call?
With that, and the numerous other incidents mentioned above in mind, it would be appropriate for the league to do something about Crawford just because of his bad/questionable/bizarre calls, if nothing else. Whatever the reason, the fact Crawford is still refereeing after two reinstatements and repeated incidents like these is absurd.