First, it was Joey Crawford's killer dance moves. Then, it was David Jones refusing to let Amir Johnson touch the basketball, and getting a mouthpiece chucked at his back in the bargain. Then, it was Courtney Kirkland doing his best Dikembe Mutombo impression on a Kris Humphries free throw.
And on Wednesday night, veteran official Bill Kennedy became the latest NBA referee to find himself at the center of fans' attention, providing an awkward bit of viewing when a live microphone caught him explaining that the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs couldn't resume just yet because he had to give the TV broadcast some more time to run commercials.
Here's the weird fourth-quarter delay, captured by our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute:
Here's the full text of Kennedy's pow-wow with Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich listened in:
"You called a full [timeout] and then you wanted a 20[-second timeout], and you didn't have one. You called one in the third quarter. TV went to a 20, thought that it was going to be a 20, all right? So what I'm doing right now is, I'm stalling. I'm stalling for commercial time, and that's why we're doing this right now, and I need your help ... because I can't let your teams go to the huddle. You see what I'm saying?"
Um, kind of? Let's clear this up, as best we can:
By rule — Rule No. 5, Section VI, Subsection B (a.) of the Official Rules of the National Basketball Association, if you want to get technical — "each team is entitled to one (1) 20-second timeout per half and each overtime period." As Kennedy explained, D'Antoni called L.A.'s second-half 20 after Kawhi Leonard hit a corner 3-pointer to put the Spurs up 81-66 with 3:27 left in the third quarter. So when D'Antoni wanted to talk it over again with 5:09 left in the game and the Lakers down a dozen, he didn't have the abbreviated option available; Kennedy had to assess him a full timeout.
The TV production team, though, had only aired enough advertisements to fill a 20-second slot, and the broadcast needed to air more spots to fill up the ad time ... except, because this wasn't an "official" timeout, coaches aren't allowed to bring their teams over to the sidelines for further discussion and strategizing. Hence, Kennedy's elaborate tactic to keep the players on the floor, the coaches occupied and the clock ticking away until play could resume.
Except, apparently, ESPN didn't go to commercial, their cameras caught the whole thing and Jon Barry made a joke about it, moving this from "clever ruse" into "weird insight into the machinations of broadcast television."
No doubt invigorated by the additional breather, the Lakers promptly went on an 11-2 run, drawing within three points of the Spurs with 2:56 left in the game, but couldn't complete the comeback as San Antonio came away with a 108-105 win, improving their Southwest Division-leading record to 28-10 behind 24 points from Tony Parker, a strong double-double from Tiago Splitter (14 points on 5 for 7 shooting and 14 rebounds) and a sterling 12 for 25 mark from downtown.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 27 points on 24 shots, Metta World Peace had another strong game at power forward with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven steals, and little-used reserve Earl Clark — pressed into action due to the Lakers' rash of frontline injuries — added a surprising 22 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes off the L.A. bench, but it wasn't enough to keep D'Antoni's team from losing its fifth straight to fall to 15-20 on the season.