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Dan Bickley

The rant Suns’ Monty Williams should have made after Game 2 vs. Lakers

Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Devin Booker #1 and Jae Crowder #99 during the second half of Game One of the Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Arena on May 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Monty Williams is an excellent coach and a better man. But he missed a great opportunity to send a much-needed message after the game.

Not to his players. To NBA officials.

Here’s what Williams might’ve said following a Game 2 loss on Tuesday, words that would’ve guaranteed a hefty fine. They would’ve been worth every penny.

*****

“You know, I normally don’t complain about officiating. But this is getting ridiculous. Our players aren’t getting a fair shake and our fans are convinced the league is tilting the playing field to help the Lakers.

“Anthony Davis shot 21 free throws in Game 2. Devin Booker shot 17, but 10 of them came after the outcome was already decided. If you didn’t know any better, you would think the officials were trying to launder the numbers at the end, so the box score didn’t look so bad.

“Look at Jae Crowder. He received two fouls in the first 58 seconds. He also took a deliberate kick to the groin area, which is clearly a malicious act by Davis given the benefit of instant replay. How is this man allowed to keep playing basketball after that? Why is Cam Payne ejected from a game for much lesser actions? And why does Montrezl Harrell not get ejected for trucking Payne in Game 1?

“Do you see what I’m saying? LeBron James breaks COVID-19 health and safety protocol before the series and it’s no big deal. Other NBA players pay stiff fines for these violations. We don’t want any handouts in Phoenix. We want to beat the Lakers at their best. But by my count, James could’ve been suspended from Game 1 and Davis should’ve been ejected from Game 2. Think that would have an impact on the series?

“It’s not fair because basketball fans in Phoenix have dealt with perception for too long. They’ve endured real NBA injustice before, namely the suspensions of Boris Diaw and Amar’e Stoudemire when they were the true victims, when it was Robert Horry who chose to hip check Steve Nash. We’ve heard Tim Donaghy, a disgraced referee, claim that officials were looking to penalize Robert Sarver during the playoffs. What are they supposed to think?

“It’s not fair because our basketball team doesn’t take a night off. We don’t load manage. We’ve never dishonored the fans or the sport. And we deserve better than this.”

*****

Veteran readers know where I stand. Complaining about officiating is a sport of losers, akin to playing the victim whenever possible. To demand more of our sports franchises, we must give them fewer alibis and excuses. It’s one of the worst traits of our market because, in the end, there is no grand conspiracy. If so, the NBA would’ve never let the Grizzlies eliminate Steph Curry and the Warriors.

But that shouldn’t have stopped Williams from some heavy gamesmanship.

In the NBA of yesteryear, head coaches often deployed this tactic. They accepted a fine to blow up the NBA in a post-game press conference. It was so predictable that it became cliché. It also worked.

Referees are human. If a head coach puts an officiating crew on blast, the last thing the incoming referees want is to appear biased and confirm suspicions.

Generally, it’s a pricey way to ensure a moderate increase in favorable calls, especially when the benefits only last for one game. But at the intersection of injury and desperation, one game is all the Suns need.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier