Does the NBA really want the discussion at the Finals to focus on the officials? With a curious choice of referees for Game 4, it certainly seems so.
The league selected Eddie F. Rush (of the infamous Kendrick Perkins ejection), Scott Foster (a onetime close friend of Tim Donaghy), and Finals neophyte Greg Willard, meaning that if anything controversial happened last night, the conspiracy theorists would be screaming like girls at a Justin Bieber concert.
The last time Celtics fans saw Rush, he was pinning Perkins with two first-half technicals in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. To review: Rush called a double technical on Perkins and Orlando center Marcin Gortat after Perkins tried to help Paul Pierce to his feet after a foul.
Now, Perkins said his arm slipped and his elbow flew back and made contact with Gortat, who responded by using his fist to pop the ball out of Perkins’s arm. Whether Perkins intentionally elbowed Gortat will likely never be known, but Rush assumed he did.
Midway through the second quarter, Perkins disputed a reach-in foul and was given a second technical.
Some observers believe Rush forgot that he had assessed Perkins that early double technical, but he could do nothing to reverse the call, and Perkins was ejected.
The NBA rescinded the second call the next morning.
Foster, meanwhile, was linked to Donaghy during the time the disgraced former official was admitting to betting on NBA games. Donaghy made 134 calls to Foster between October 2006 and April 2007, with several calls reported to be two minutes or less.
But the NBA cleared Foster of any wrongdoing and said Donaghy acted alone in betting on games. Donaghy served part of a 15-month prison sentence for charges related to gambling on NBA games.
Foster has continued to work without any controversy, but he is a curious choice for the Finals.
Game officials are chosen by merit and experience, and the 12-man Finals rotation was drawn from a 36-man postseason crew. Rush, Foster, and Willard were the final three of the 12 to work the Finals.