Should Jeff Van Gundy Have Passed on NBA Finals?

won tonContributor IJune 12, 2009

HOUSTON - APRIL 21:  Coach Jeff Van Gundy of the Houston Rockets on the sidelines as his teams plays the Utah Jazz in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2007 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center April 21, 2007 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

This entire post-season, if you've watched the entire playoff calendar either on ESPN or TNT, there is one common thing that I've noticed. If the Lakers win, it was because the other team played poorly, and if the Lakers lose, it's because the other team outplayed them. Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were blatantly obvious in their disdain for the Lakers, even calling them "arrogant."

When the Lakers beat the Jazz, the Lakers were criticized because they didn't sweep Utah. When the Houston Rockets took the Lakers to seven games, everyone was talking about how the Lakers were overrated and were going to be promptly disposed of by the "hottest" team in the West.    

After the Lakers dispatched the Nuggets in six, all the experts had to swallow their opinions, and even John Hollinger had to write an article about something completely different. He wrote an article about the future of the Nuggets. Not a peep about how the Lakers finally showed up and put together two solid games, playing like a team and finally living up to their potential.

I understand that as commentators, their job is to create intrigue and drama, so if the Lakers are doing well, it's pointless to watch unless they portray scenarios where things can get interesting. And at times, the criticism has been deserved. During the Rockets series, the Lakers played so poorly that it's safe to say the criticism was well deserved.  

However, if anyone has paid attention during these finals, it has become extremely hard to listen to the commentary on ABC. Jeff Van Gundy offered to recuse himself, which was tongue-in-cheek. He shouldn't have asked, and he should've simply recused himself. To sit there and say that he will be professional is like putting lipstick on a pig.   

I don't blame him for being passionate about his brother and wanting the Magic to win, but his decision to stay not only affects him but it affects his co-workers. If you noticed during this series, all three commentators have used kid gloves when criticizing Stan Van Gundy and constantly praise Orlando or comment on what Orlando needs to do to keep the lead or get back to the game. 

I think Mark Jackson and Mike Breen have had to tone down their criticism of Orlando. Think of it this way: If you went to a little league game with your co-worker to see his kid play, would you tell him his kid played poorly?

When a foul is not called in favor of the Magic, Jeff Van Gundy is all over it, and yet when it's the other way around, not a word. A perfect example occurred in Game 4 when Kobe pulled up for a shot and Mickael Pietrus hit him in the hand and it wasn't called, Mark Jackson said, "That was a clear foul that should've been called."

Jeff snickered, and replied, "You think that was a foul, really?" Exactly as we were watching the replay which clearly showed Pietrus' hand hitting Kobe. It was a clear foul, yet Jeff let his loyalty to his brother corrupt his perception as a commentator. 

The longer the series goes on and the more Orlando falls short, the more bias in his commentary. Did anyone catch that comment he made after Fisher made the three-pointer? He said that he "couldn't understand the IQ of basketball players." That to me sounds like he's saying that sometimes the players are stupid. An objective commentator wouldn't say something like that, but his passion came across, and the unfortunate thing is that Laker fans have to put up with his antics.

As a Laker fan, at times it's felt like I accidentally got WFTV9 Orlando, as the commentary has been largely pro-Magic. They'll throw the Lakers a bone here and there, to mask their bias, something like, "Kobe is the best closer in the game."  But then they'll follow that up with something like, "But one man can't beat a team."  

As a viewer, I wish they would have recused Jeff, but ultimately it's interesting to watch Jeff slowly watch his brother fail just like he did against the Spurs. I guess it's not so bad if I look at it that way.