Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Joey Crawford's strength as an official can also be a weakness, as we saw in the episode involving Tim Duncan in Sunday's San Antonio Spurs-Dallas Mavericks game.

Crawford has a strong presence on the court, leaving no doubt as to who is in charge. That's a critical quality for a referee to possess because inevitably there will be bad calls made on the floor that will upset both teams.

The best officials acknowledge their errors without giving up their authority. Crawford's flaw is that he occasionally allows his court presence to turn into anger, as it did in the Duncan case.

By losing his temper and reportedly challenging Duncan to a fight, Crawford crossed the line that officials simply can't cross -- the one that lets personal issues get in the way of calling a good game. By challenging Duncan, and then tossing him from a game for something so trivial as sarcastic laughter from the bench, Crawford made a horrible mistake that he is now paying for.

I suspect that Crawford will get another chance from commissioner David Stern, but remember, he had a similar experience in the 2003 playoffs when he called four technical fouls and ejected Mavericks coach Don Nelson from a game against the Spurs. That incident -- like this one -- prompted a harsh reprimand from Stern, who considered Crawford's rant over the top. No doubt the commissioner is extremely upset over this (hence the suspension) and Crawford may have to prove to the league that he can control his temper.

My guess is that Stern will give Crawford a chance to come back next season. He is normally a terrific official and the league doesn't want to lose him. But if he doesn't learn to control his anger, Crawford, who comes from a family of baseball umpires, could be looking at strike three.

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