We've had a lot of great basketball in the Playoffs, but unfortunately, most of it has been overshadowed by referee decisions. Usually, the flopfest in a Chris Paul series would take the headlines, but the Warriors-Grizzlies series has taken over the mantle of the most controversial series at the moment. After Steve Kerr slammed Dillon Brooks for injuring Gary Payton II, the Grizzles tried to fight back by insisting the NBA reviews the contact that caused Ja Moran's knee injury.
“I've been kissed harder than that”
The Grizzlies were salty and sensitive about all the criticism Brooks deservedly got after his flagrant foul on Gary Payton II. The fact the NBA suspended him for Game 3 after the fact definitely didn't help. That's why no one was surprised the Grizzlies went all out after Jordan Poole hit Ja Morant's knee, injuring the Grizzlies superstar.
The NBA released a statement saying the Grizzlies requested the play goes under further review, which happened, and the league found no reason to take any further action. All this drama annoyed Charles Barkley.
“He [Jordan Poole] reached at a basketball in a basketball game. We don't have to review every thing in the NBA! Stop it, nobody was trying to hurt anybody. Every call, Ernie, I'm watching the basketball game, every game it's 'Let's see if it's a flagrant, flagrant 1, flagrant 2,'” said an annoyed, flabergasted Barkley, and then summed up the absurdity of the situation.
Chuck made it clear he agreed Brooks' foul on Payton II was flagrant, but strongly disagreed with Steve Kerr there was any intent to injure. This, on the other hand, was just ridiculous.
Catering to stars
In addition to the consistent glorification of "doing anything that gives us the edge," which empowers teams to complain about everything because it may lead to a more favorable whistle in the future, I believe the recent inflation of public drama surrounding referee decisions is yet another element of teams catering to their stars.
During the latest All-Star voting finale, Ryen Russilo shared that several NBA executives said they know their guy isn't an All-Star caliber player, but that they have to go on a media tour and invest in promoting him to soothe the player's ego. (Rusillo then proceeded to share the funniest thing he had ever seen a team sent to push for their guy - a custom-made Kevin Love cologne.)
We're seeing the same with flagrants and reviews. Teams are terrified even the slightest thing could disappoint or hurt their players' feelings and that it could have implications down the road.
Look, teams have always catered to stars. But the level of panic we're seeing today lets us know the teams think the modern NBA star is a sensitive, delicate flower and are willing to embarrass themselves to preempt a potential hissy fit.
Ironically, Ja Morant has a completely opposite reputation. The Grizzlies star is a humble, team-first guy, and nevertheless, head coach Taylor Jenkins went on a media campaign. Modern NBA has improved in a lot of areas - this is sadly not one of them.