In a conference call with commissioner Stern, Tim Duncan, and Greg Popovich, Stern was asked why the league was making this mea culpa: "Simply put, the NBA officials refereeing this game and the San Antonio Spurs were not ready at the time of play.
"Give some credit to the Mavs and coach Rick Carlisle, but we feel we could have controlled this game in a fashion NBA fans are more accustomed to had our referees been more prepared."
Duncan and Popovich agree. "The Spurs organization totally supports this move..this isn't the same Mavs team we played with Avery coaching. I don't think that's right. You can't just raise your level of play like that so dramatically without any kind of warning. We feel like the Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle played a trick on us...laying low all season and then springing them on us."
"Our officials were not ready for this level of play. Coaches and teams around the league were well aware of Avery Johnson's complete incompetence, but they had no idea how incompetent, apparently," Stern opines.
"We thought we had put this Mavs team to rest in 2006, and their performance this season was in line with that. If we had known the Mavs were capable of this, we would have put some of our more veteran officials in the game to prevent this kind of mismatch."
TNT Knows Drama
"Our fans are used to a certain level of competitiveness in these playoff games, especially our Spurs fans, who have more than paid their dues, have seniority, and whom are extremely loyal," Stern explains.
"We also like to keep the Spurs in an elevated position to give hope to other small market teams. And Duncan is a great ambassador for the game," Stern confesses, "he appeals to both white and black fans, unlike a Nowitzki, who has a limited market appeal. Dirk does not poll well in our young street market share."
NBA official Joey Crawford says he takes full responsibility for the Game Three debacle. "It was a weird situation, I gotta admit. Normally, as a veteran official in these playoff games, you feel like you are in full control.
"I've never personally been a part of a playoff game I couldn't impact. We, as veteran officials, pride ourselves on being able to keep any type of game in the playoffs close. You should have seen some of those Bulls games when Jordan was on some terrible teams.
"Normally, in this type of situation with the Mavs, we like to give an unwarranted flagrant when the game is getting out of control, or kick the coach out of the game, like we did Don Nelson a few years back. We still laugh about that one—one of my personal favorite highlights at officials gatherings," Crawford says laughing.
"Had we known the Mavs were capable of this kind of play, we likely would have suspended Dampier for his comments about putting Parker on his back or suspended Terry and Howard for bumping into Parker in Game Two. We gave him the flagrant, but I think we could have pushed that farther. Fans love crazy stuff like that. It's almost a WWE approach to the game, really."
Dirk and Cuban Are a Perfect Storm of Shadenfruede Appeal
"We spend millions of dollars looking for ways to job that Mavs team," NBA officials explain, "We feel it is one of the finest achievements of our league.
"We call it the 'shadenfeude scenario'. Our analysis has shown NBA fans love to see a team have their hearts torn apart on the biggest stage repeatedly, just as much as they enjoy watching a team and superstar win championships repeatedly."
"Another recent example was the Sacramento Kings. We did heavy test screening previous to some stuff we did in that Kings-Lakers series. We feel we revolutionized pro sports scripting there. Then we raised the bar even more in the Mavs-Heat series," Stern beams.
Well, this time the Mavs aren't cooperating apparently.