Not To Say “I Told You So,” But…


Remember when the league first announced it was going to replay the final 51.9 seconds of the December 19th game between the Hawks and Heat?

Well I do. In fact, I believe I posted about the league’s ineptitude for choosing to replay just the game’s final segment rather than the entire game. Here is an excerpt commenting on why the decision is a bad one:

“Much will have transpired by the time March 8 comes about. The two teams will have different mindsets than they did on December 19, due mainly to the close proximity of the replay to the playoffs. The teams’ respective momentums will be different, the personnel will most likely be different (due to the nature of NBA seasons in regard to player injuries and trades), and it is entirely plausible that Miami could have a new coach by then.

More importantly, what if Shaquille O’Neal isn’t well enough to play? It’s not as if the Big Aristotle is the Big Infallible this year: there’s already talk of him being urged by some to sit out the rest of this “lost” (I don’t see it as lost yet but many have labeled it so) season so as to fully recover and make a strong push during the final two years of his contract. If the main reason for the do-over isn’t even able to play, what then? A postponed do-over? A double do-over?”

In retrospect, my questioning was a little off, Shaq’s reason for missing the game won’t be due to injury (although he very well could be injured then as well). Instead, it will be due to the trade that occurred yesterday sending Shaq to the Suns in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

But my question now has an answer. What the league will do now that Shaquille won’t be playing in the game? Nothing.

According to an article written yesterday by Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the NBA will simply proceed with the game’s replay as originally planned.

If this were the only dumb decision on the NBA’s part about this replay, it would be egregious enough—after all, the NBA did specifically cite Shaquille O’Neal’s incorrect removal from the game as the main reason for the re-do.

Unfortunately, it’s not the only dumb decision. According to Smith, there are “stipulations” about the replay now that a trade has occurred: “Neither Marion nor Banks will be allowed to play.”

Lets follow the logic here: there is a trade between the Suns and Heat, swapping Shaquille O’Neal for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks (keep in mind that all trades must be league-approved prior to completion). The trade, in essence, can be interpreted as Shaq = Marion + Banks. They were traded for each other, therefore their value is equivalent (or equivalent enough for the trade to occur).

Except the NBA is now saying that, when placed in the context of the March 8 Hawks/Heat replay, Shaq ≠ Marion + Banks. Marion and Banks cannot play in the game’s final 51.9 seconds.

I’m no math scholar, but, what?

If Shaq was never traded but was going to miss the replay due to injury, the replay would still occur. So the issue isn’t that Shaq is gone. The issue instead is that he was traded. Could it be that he was not only traded, but in the case of the replay game, upgraded?

It has been widely discussed that the Heat got the better end of the deal in the trade, sending a recently unproductive and battle-worn Shaq (along with his massive contract) to the Suns for Phoenix’s best defender and a perennial All-Star in his prime. Perhaps the league is worried that now the Heat have a marked advantage in the game, and as such, chose to do something about it.

Take that paragraph as tongue-in-cheek, I do not believe that thinking played any role in the league’s decision, but I can honestly say that I certainly do not know what kind of thinking did.

This re-do has been a disastrous idea from the start. As I stated a month ago, if the league is set on replaying a part of the game, it has to replay the entire thing.

By the time it’s all said and done, I would be unsurprised if the Heat win the game in spite of their depleted roster, and then the Hawks go on to miss the playoffs by a half game. It’s the path the league has set.

But if that happened, it would almost make sense, in a nonsensical sort of way. And if there’s anything we know about this issue, sense left the discussion long ago.

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