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T.J. SIMERS

Referees make sure Stern remains happy

May 08, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

A review of Laker playoff game No. 6 -- 10 wins to go.

NBA Commissioner David Stern stopped by the press room before the game and said he had just met with the referees, I presume to remind them how excited he is about the upcoming Boston-L.A. Finals.

For some reason when this game started, the refs called four fouls on Utah, none on the Lakers, and then tagged Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan with a technical foul.

No need to make it so obvious, guys.

If Stern is worried about a Lakers-Celtics matchup, he ought to be spending most of his time with Boston.

He came here, of course, to hand Bryant the Maurice Podoloff Trophy, and as you know, everyone in the NBA would like to win the Podoloff.

Stern, always the NBA salesman, said something ridiculous, like there were many MVP-worthy performances this season, but since there can only be one, oh well, let's give it to Bryant.

The Staples Center crowd, waving MVP placards, wearing "Our MVP" T-shirts and energized by all the freebies, cheered as Bryant told them the Lakers were going to play into June.

It was too loud to hear anything, much less Stern probably say, "thank heavens."

Bryant's promise to the crowd to play into June has the ring of a guarantee, knocking off Utah and whatever team emerges next before traveling to Boston to start the NBA Finals.

Anyone care to disagree?

AS FOR the MVP, it seemed ridiculous Wednesday to walk by a TV set and see the folks on ESPN still arguing whether this was the right year to give Bryant the MVP trophy.

He won it decisively, and it's still a wonder he hasn't won one before this. Everything that has taken place off the court has been well-documented, but now Bryant has been given a fresh start and chance to win it all.

As for the MVP ceremony distraction, a question tossed at Phil Jackson before the game, it lasted all of seven seconds before Derek Fisher tossed in a basket. These playful Lakers are very businesslike.

Utah shot the ball well early, but once the referees got into the game, it began to tip toward the Lakers. No doubt Tim Donaghy would have bet as much.

Stern's crew took Utah's best player, Carlos Boozer, out of the game with a pair of first-quarter fouls, and then added another 19 seconds after he returned to start the second quarter. Boozer finished the half with no points, the refs doing the best job of defense on Boozer in the NBA this season.

Bryant also picked up two fouls, but his second came with the Lakers up by 15 with less than 30 seconds left in the first quarter and Bryant probably headed to the bench anyway for a rest.

Final first-half stats, the Lakers making 15 of 19 free throws, the Jazz going four for six from the line and Stern being treated to a 14-point Lakers advantage.

The Lakers had 27 free-throw attempts, Utah eight after three quarters, and the Jazz still managed to keep it close. But that's the NBA for you, every game seemingly arranged so it will somehow remain close going into the final two minutes -- like that really happens.

The Lakers won, Bryant got his Podoloff, and all in all, a good night for Stern and the NBA.

PLAYED IN George Lopez's National Kidney Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic and when I mentioned Andruw Jones' name, Lopez said, "A Dodger uniform just doesn't look good with a cummerbund."

In 2005 Lopez received a kidney from his wife, Ann, who tripped while coming onto the stage after the tournament dinner. "Don't fall," he told her, "I might need the other one."

For the last two years Lopez had tried to breathe some life into the Bob Hope Classic, which no longer featured an interesting field of golfers and celebrities.

Lopez was apparently too edgy for the folks who don't know a dying tournament when they have one, and so Lopez will no longer be affiliated with the Hope.

As a result, the Kidney Classic has a new host, the first tournament drawing such incredible stars as Frank Pace, R.J. Jarimillo, Nino Cuccinello and Bryan Callen.

I know one of them was a star, because the tournament assigned a celebrity to every fivesome, part of the fun of the whole day guessing which one of our guys used to be somebody. It was like the Hope Classic in that way.

TICKETS REMAIN on sale for "Scully & Wooden for the kids" through Ticketmaster, but e-mailer Ron Breitstein has already made his purchase and will be making the trip from Chicago to be there.

"I have had the pleasure to meet both of these men in my life and to this day have never forgotten it," Breitstein wrote.

Early feedback suggests a number of folks bought tickets Wednesday for Father's Day gifts, sons for their fathers and seemingly just as many fathers for their sons.

As for the challenge put forth to single out those who deserve thanks or just a boost along with a pair of $100 tickets to listen to Scully & Wooden, there have been so many great suggestions. The top choices will appear Tuesday on Page 2.

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