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Conspiracy theories don’t help Kings

By Marcos Breton

McClatchy Newspapers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Here in Sacramento, it’s not funny. Revelations that a disgraced NBA referee is alleging that other refs conspired to rob the Kings of a championship berth is like a nightmare come true.

People here have never gotten over 2002 and the Kings’ epic Western Conference Finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Sacramento felt ripped off then and now.

So when news exploded Tuesday that disgraced ref Tim Donaghy cited Game 6 of the Kings-Lakers series as proof of game fixing by other refs, it was worse than picking at an old scab.

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It was taking a switch blade to an old scab.

The Kings got robbed in that fateful brawl at Staples Center, a wretched Friday night where Kings players drew whistles for breathing on Lakers players.

At one point, Lakers star Kobe Bryant planted his elbow on the face of former Kings sharp-shooter Mike Bibby — and it was Bibby who got the foul. Maybe the refs called Bibby for bleeding on Bryant? Who knows? Who cares?

It’s over and nothing will change that the Lakers won that series and then the NBA title. Complaining about 27 foul shots the Lakers took in the fourth quarter that night only cemented a reputation that the Kings were soft.

When Kings coach Rick Adelman raised his voice, a terrific coach was labeled a whiner. And Kings players were soon dubbed the Sacramento "Queens" by former Laker supernova, Shaquille O’Neal.

Again, it was funny everywhere but here.

In this place, the ‘02 conference finals are proof of something all of us know about life: That sometimes you get cheated and that’s it.

It’s like the drug dealer who smashes your car window and steals your stuff in broad daylight. Or it’s getting stabbed in the back by people you trusted.

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You can scream about injustice, but all you’ll get in return are people who judge you. The Kings were judged harshly in ‘02, many made sport of the 14 free throws they missed in the failed Game 7 finale. Or they mocked how horrible refs appealed to the Kings’ worst instincts, spawned a self-defeating negativity that undermined them.

That’s why it’s pointless to hope that Donaghy’s conspiracy theories are proved or to expect NBA Commissioner David Stern to do anything but filibuster. No one is going to pull that championship banner down from Staples Center and spirit it to Arco Arena.

Even if they did, Adelman is gone. Chris Webber’s knee exploded and he’s done. Vlade Divac is retired, so is Doug Christie. And the rest of that exciting team — a better team than the Lakers — has scattered.

Stern can pretend all he wants that his ref problems are relegated to Donaghy, the busted gambler and point shaver. But the larger issue is that NBA fans believe NBA refs could be crooked because they are so bad — because they have affected too many outcomes since.

Fix that if you can, Mr. Stern. But you can’t re-create a championship parade down J Street that never happened. You can’t retrieve years the Kings wasted while vainly chasing that stolen title dream long after their window had slammed shut.

Conspiracy or not, it is undeniable that the refs adversely affected the outcome the ‘02 series. Yes, they blew calls that benefited the Kings too. But they blew an entire game — Game 6 — which didn’t.

Why don’t you hear the Kings’ people complaining about that now? Because they are tired of being called whiners and it wouldn’t change anything, anyway.

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(c) 2008, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).

Visit The Sacramento Bee online at http://www.sacbee.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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