Daily Archives: Feb. 18, 2013

Who shot free throws?

Cleanthony Early, that’s who.

But it should have been Tekele Cotton stepping to the line for Wichita State with 41 seconds remaining in its strange-and-getting-stranger game against Illinois State on Sunday night in Bloomington, Ill.

After the much-discussed flagrant kicking foul against ISU’s Jackie Carmichael was called, following several minutes of review, the Redbirds’ Johnny Hill, who had been fouled after the kick, made a pair of free throws to give Illinois State a 67-60 lead.

Then WSU’s Early, an 80 percent free-throw shooter, stepped to the line for the Shockers at the other end of the floor. By this time, nerves were frazzled and focus was obviously unclear. Reportedly, Illinois State coach Dan Muller objected to Early shooting the free throws, but was told by the game officials that a technical foul had been called.

Huh?

The flagrant 1 foul that was called against Carmichael is not a technical. It’s treated exactly like a personal foul, except that possession of the basketball stays with the team that was the victim of the flagrant foul.

So Cotton, who took the kick to the chest from Carmichael, should have been the one shooting the free throws. Except he wasn’t.

It was a pretty fortuitous turn of events for the Shockers, considering Cotton is just a 58.6 percent free-throw shooter.

Early, you know, made both free throws to pull WSU to within five. A three-pointer by Demetric Williams capped the possession and cut ISU’s lead to two. Then Early won it with a late three-pointer.

Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin, who reprimanded official Rick Randall after a highly questionable goal-tending call against WSU during a road loss at Southern Illinois nearly two weeks ago, issued another statement regarding officials today.

“The Missouri Valley Conference has disciplined the basketball game officials for their administration of awarded free throws in the final moments of the Wichita State-Illinois State game on Sunday night at Redbird Arena in Normal, Illinois,” the statement read.

Oops.

Can you imagine how fans would be reacting today had a similar fate fallen on the Shockers? I can, and it ain’t pretty.

But WSU will take its win.

It’s amazing to me that this situation slipped past the game officials. I’m a little embarrassed it slipped past me. But in all of the confusion of the Carmichael kick, attention to detail was lost.

Perhaps the refs really thought they had called a technical foul. That seems outlandish, though. The crew of David Hall, Paul Janssen and Gerry Pollard has years of experience and has worked hundreds of games.

Whatever the case, this just adds to the crazy finish of a crazy game that will be talked about for years. It’s especially noteworthy because it kept Wichita State, which plays at Indiana State on Tuesday night, in first place by a game over Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference race with just three games remaining for both teams.

Wow, wow, wow.

 

MJ is 50, let’s move on

I’m going to admit somethinghere.

I don’t care that Michael Jordan turned 50 on Sunday. I tried to care, because of ESPN’s wall-to-wall

coverage both on its television platforms and its website. “Sports Illustrated” devoted its cover and two long stories last week to Jordan, even though he hasn’t talked to the magazine since 1994.

Jordan is the greatest basketball player who ever lived, and I have enjoyed watching numerous highlights of his basketball career and the six NBA championships he won with the Chicago Bulls. When Jordan played, I watched. Simple as that.

He hasn’t played in a while now. He’s the owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, one of the most unsuccessful franchises in NBA history. The juxtaposition from best-player-ever to worst-owner-ever (he’s at least in the discussion, right?) is interesting, I suppose.

I made it through part of the Sports Illustrated coverage and maybe a quarter of Wright Thompson’s Jordan opus on ESPN.com before I gave up and said to myself: “This isn’t doing it for me.”

Sacrilege? I’m sure the case could be made.

Jordan is, after all, the world’s all-time greatest athlete, which is two or three rungs up from world’s all-time greatest basketball player. Those of us who saw him play still have a highlight reel or two of action streaming through our brains. Those who didn’t might have been compelled to wash themselves in all of the Jordan coverage over the past week.

I just couldn’t get through it.

For as great as Jordan was as a basketball player, he’s never been a particularly interesting person. I don’t recall Jordan ever taking any political stands or saying anything that made me go, “Whoa, did he just say that?”

Jordan was a concoction of vivid colors when he was playing basketball, but plain vanilla when he wasn’t. He was never crazy about letting the public or the media get close to him and I think most of us were OK with that as long as we could enjoy his basketball talents. Who cares what Mike thinks? I just want him to dunk.

In his Sports Illustrated story, Phil Taylor wrote: “(Jordan’s) refusal to lay himself open has also helped him maintain a bit of mystery, and with it, a certain cachet. In a culture that cycles through celebrity athletes in a heartbeat – think Dennis Rodman and Terrell Owens – Jordan abides, still with a modicum of cool as he pitches products as decidedly unhip as Hanes underwear. It’s because even after all these years, we feel that we don’t know everything about him, that we’re not through with him yet. Some athletes chase our attention, Jordan let’s us chase him.”

Was anybody really longing for Jordan news? If it hadn’t been for his approaching 50th birthday, would there have been any?

Just a few days ago, I wrote a column about former Wichita State basketball great Dave Stallworth. I had no peg to that story, not even a birthday. I wrote it because of my affinity for Stallworth and because of concerns about his health, which I wanted to clear up for the many Shocker fans who hold him in such high regard.

Jordan was celebrated because of the date on his birth certificate. And, again, I don’t have a problem with making not of his 50th birthday. He is an iconic figure in the history of sports.

I’m just not sure about all of the attempts to dig deeper into Jordan, a man who has never willfully accepted such scrutiny. One of the best things about Jordan is that he’s done all he can to keep his private life private as his basketball life was on full display.

So thanks for the highlights. It was fun to spend a half hour or so the other day watching Jordan do what he did best – play basketball. I don’t care what anybody says about LeBron James or the other great players throughout history, there will never be another Jordan.

If anything, his futility as an owner is sad. I don’t know if it diminishes his contributions as a player – I don’t know if anything could – but it doesn’t help his legacy.

Then again, it doesn’t really hurt his legacy, either. Because his legacy is about being a basketball player. It’s not about being an owner, a father, a husband, a friend, a gardener, a poet . . . it’s about one thing.

For everything Jordan was on the basketball floor, he’s nothing like it as a private citizen. He’s still Michael Jordan, of course, except that he isn’t. Know what I mean?

There’s a sadness in that, I suppose. He’s not the first professional athlete to struggle with life after sports. I’m sure Jordan thought he could fulfill his competitive urges as an owner. But he can’t take the last shot for those Bobcats players. He can’t create a magic potion that make them him.

So I’ve spent more than 800 words here today trying to explain why I don’t find Jordan all that interesting as he begins his 50s. There’s a contradiction here, I’m aware, in trying to be interesting while trying to explain while the Jordan of today isn’t. I’ve given it my best shot.