The series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Detroit Pistons is only one game in and Stan Van Gundy is already riffing and working the refs.
In fact, after seeing how well his Pistons match up with the Cavs, Stan decided to go all in before this series goes any further. He called out the refs for favoring LeBron James during his team’s 106-101 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs first round.
The Pistons coach told ESPN’s Lisa Salters, “A couple calls have upset our guys. They’ve got to understand, LeBron’s LeBron. They’re not going to call offensive fouls on him. He gets to do whatever he wants. They’ve got to understand that.”
Lebron finished the game with 22 points, 11 assists and six rebounds as the Cavs outscored the inspired Pistons 30-23 in the final quarter to win a close game.
Van Gundy broke the cardinal rule and criticized the officiating. To make it an even bolder move, he did it before the game was over. He’s an old school dude licking shots in a new school NBA. Now that Steph Curry is considered basketball’s new standard bearer, I guess pissing on LeBron is fair game.
Hey. I’m not mad at Van Gundy. He comes from a family of coaching legends and he knows what he’s doing. He executes his dual duties as head coach and president of basketball operations with tenacity, competence, diligence and ambition.
You don’t usually see coaches openly express what everyone feels. The NBA guards heavily against that and Van Gundy might be expecting a fine in the near future. Even though the coach backtracked on his comments he made at the end of the first quarter, it was probably in response to some advice he got from upstairs. Or the next step in a preconceived plan.
The NBA hates for a fan’s focus to be on the refs. Officials are supposed to be almost invisible and totally within the flow of the game. We all know that players such as LeBron and Kobe and Jordan seem to get the benefit of the doubt on most calls, but most coaches never actually say it on national television.
With his latest outburst of truth, Van Gundy has also run the risk of infuriating LeBron and inspiring him even more. But maybe that’s what Van Gundy wants. He wants LeBron to take it personal and try to do it himself.
After watching Sunday night’s game, it’s obvious that the Cavs are more effective when Kevin Love is getting his 18-20 shots a game as well. Love’s 28-point, 13-rebound performance was reminiscent of his killer T-Wolves Days. If he continues to be aggressive and doesn’t limit his offensive game to stand-still three-point shooting, the Cavs become a different, more lethal squad.
Van Gundy was playing mind games and trying to influence the series by putting it out there that the refs aren’t playing fair. It’s like a damning statement made in a trial, that the judge asks the jury to strike from the record, but it’s already out there, lingering and seeping into the subconscious of all parties involved.
After the game, Van Gundy tried to clean it up, but the impact of his statement was already felt. He played the “star” card and it’s official that he is as bold and crazy as ever.
“Look, I thought it (the officiating) evened out really well,” Van Gundy told reporters in the post-game presser. “But early on, I thought there were two pretty obvious offensive fouls down there on him. But it’s two calls in an entire game after that. Look, the refereeing had nothing to do with tonight. They did a good job. It went both ways. I thought they did a really good job. It was decided by the players on the floor, as it should be.”
Van Gundy softened the situation, but he still took another jab at the refs. I guess he accomplished everything he could accomplish to turn the tables in his team’s favor, short of a win.
Van Gundy went for his last night. Some call it whining. Some call it a risky chess move. The next six games (if the series goes that far) however, will determine how lame or legendary Van Gundy’s comments really were.