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4:18 PM Sun, Oct. 21st

Column: NBA: National Betrayal Association

PAUL RODRIQUEZ/Orange County Register, MCT<br><br>
Fans are getting fouled in the NBA Finals like Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce by Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic during Game 3.

PAUL RODRIQUEZ/Orange County Register, MCT<br><br> Fans are getting fouled in the NBA Finals like Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce by Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic during Game 3.

I'm not supposed to feel this way. I've coddled this sports love of mine. I've watched it grow from a fledgling to a corporate powerhouse. I've yearned for it, defended it and provided support to it as far as my wallet would let me. John Le Carre had it right. I've been betrayed because I loved it.

The National Basketball Association has run its course in my life. I bid adieu to this league that once gave me hope, anxiety, wishful thinking and a broken heart. My heart has lost all tolerance for the NBA. I can't take anymore, give anymore and, most certainly, can't expect anymore.

The NBA, undeservedly so, has become the international ambassador for basketball. As the game's representative, the NBA has taken a game that was designed to incorporate most, if not all, human physical coordination and turned it into a laughing-stock for the international community to see.

I came to this decision by first investigating the format for the NBA Finals - the 2-3-2, meaning the team with the best record gets to play the first 2 games at home, followed by 3 at the home of the other team, then 2 back at the top team's home, if necessary.

Though it has been in place since 1985, it annoys me every year. This season, the Boston Celtics earned home-court advantage with 66 regular season victories. For that honor, should the series with the Lakers continue with the home team winning every game, the Celtics get to play two elimination games versus the Lakers' one.

Not every series reaches seven games, so the importance of Game 5 has to be discussed. Ken Berger of Newsday had Celtics coach Doc Rivers explain just how crucial Game 5 has been for the Celtics.

"Game 5 is taken away from you in this format," Rivers said. "We've had three huge Game 5s in the first three rounds. They were the swing games for us, and all of them have been at home. So that part of it changed."

This format was adopted to cut down on travel and decrease traveling expenses. But those days are over, and now the NBA can afford whatever it takes to get the finals completed in the fairest way possible.

Fairness is one of the central arguments against the NBA and its current state. I banished the NBA from my life for two years following the debacle called the 2002 Western Conference Finals.

This was the series that pitted the Sacramento Kings against the Lakers. The Kings held a 3-2 lead as the series shifted for Game 6 in Los Angeles.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers had only shot 13 free throws. Amazingly, the Lakers were sent to the line 27 times in the fourth. Even Ralph Nader got upset about that.

Recently disgraced referee Tim Donaghy has stated that two of the referees working that game were in on the fix. That did not come as a surprise to me, yet this type of behavior continues in the NBA.

After Game 2 of this year's Celtics - Lakers series, the cry heard around the world was the advantage in free throw attempts that the Celtics had enjoyed over the first two games and that Kobe Bryant was not getting to the line for the Lakers.

The remedy? The Lakers shot 20 of the first 24 free throws in Game 3, and Bryant shot 18 of those 20. The NBA wants me to believe in more coincidences than Orenthal James Simpson would have us accept. The NBA has crossed the line, and I'm not willing to give them my self-respect.

The time has come for me to give up the ghosts: Gar Heard's shot in Game 5 of the 1976 Finals for the Suns against the Celtics; Paul Westphal and your H-O-R-S-E championship; World B. Free, you'll always be a hero to me, but your league stinks. As Archie and Edith Bunker used to croon, "Those Were the Days."

I'm not a psychic, nor do I play one on TV, but I can see the future of the NBA. I see a promo on the USA Network. "Immediately following the men of RAW, we have the game-riggers of the NBA!" When that happens I'll no longer feel betrayed. At least the NBA wouldn't be pretending anymore.