J.R. Smith's bricked jumpers weren't the only errant tosses in the New York Knicks' Game 6 battle against the Indiana Pacers. Referee Ken Mauer also joined the party by heaving up one of the worst jump balls in the history of organized basketball.
It's always a little weak to jump on officials. Usually, they're doing the best they can in what amounts to a no-win situation. No matter what they call, somebody is always unhappy.
Note to whiny fans: Your team probably lost because it wasn't any good—not because there's some league-wide conspiracy to shortchange your favorite squad.
But this one's fair game. I mean, how hard is it to execute a jump ball?
Really, there are only two steps in the process. First, the referee has to wait until both players are ready and in position. Looking at the video above, it's pretty clear that Mauer blew that one.
"Ok guys, we'll jump it up on three. One, tw...NOW!" -The ref doing the jump ball.— Referee Logic (@RefereeLogic) May 19, 2013
Maybe this is the start of a new trend in the NBA: the surprise jump ball. That sounds kind of fun, doesn't it? A ref could either fire the ball up way before either team is ready or, even better, wait for about 10 minutes with all 10 players lined up. You know, just to see how long they'd stand still.
Anyway, Mauer missed the "timing" portion of his jump-ball officiating class. But he also screwed up the second part by tossing the ball right to Amar'e Stoudemire, who was so stunned by what happened that he spiked the rock right into the waiting arms of Sam Young.
Had the Pacers scored on the ensuing play, Stoudemire would have deserved an assist.
Oh, I almost forgot that Mauer botched a third aspect of the jump ball. Look where he's standing! Don't be afraid, Kenny. You're allowed inside the circle. In fact, that's where every other referee in the history of basketball has stood during the jump ball. Get in there, buddy.
The befuddled Knicks took awhile to recover from the strangeness.
The Knicks appear to be still stunned from that awkward jump ball toss.— ESPN (@espn) May 19, 2013
And it seemed like Mauer was under attack from all angles, as New York supporters came out of the woodwork to hassle him.
John Starks not happy w/ref Ken Mauer's tech call on J.R. Smith. Starks walks to court & yells, "You were terrible when I played, Kenny."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 19, 2013
Ultimately, this isn't that big of a deal. But it's undeniably weird when something as common as a jump ball suddenly takes center stage in a playoff game for all the wrong reasons.