They're b-a-c-k . . .
I'm not talking about the dead people that little girl heard in her TV set in "Poltergeist."
This is worse.
The Lawgivers of the NBA office just inserted themselves into yet another postseason incident -- the non-call after Derek Fisher bumped Brent Barry at the end of the Lakers' Game 4 win -- turning a controversy this big into one THIS BIG!!!!
It was clear to me it was a foul before an NBA spokesman announced Wednesday, "With the benefit of instant replay, it appears a foul call should have been made."
How great was that?
The referees are specifically prevented from using instant replay and the NBA had no way to remedy the situation.
They weren't going back to San Antonio to give Barry, a 95% free-throw shooter, a chance to send it into overtime.
Nor were they going to replay the end of Game 4 before Thursday night's Game 5.
(That would have been a doubleheader. If you were 15 minutes late, you would have missed the end of Game 4 and wouldn't even have known if the Lakers still led, 3-1, or were now tied, 2-2, going into the nightcap in Game 5.)
Aside from that, the Spurs were very appreciative.
"Oh, thank you," said Coach Gregg Popovich before Thursday's game. "I'll send some flowers to the NBA. That's great."
"That's awesome because Doc Brown's waiting for me outside in the DeLorean," said Barry, outlining the plot of "Back to the Future."
"So we're flying through time with the flux capacitor, so we're going to go back and shoot them."
Unfortunately, for anyone who thought it was a documentary, you can't really go back in time.
The Spurs might well have gone on to win Game 4 in overtime since the Lakers were bound to be a little upset after blowing a seven-point lead in the last 42 seconds.
On the other hand, the Lakers still had Kobe Bryant.
In other words, we'll never know what happened.
That's the problem because from now on, people will always ask and there will never be an answer.
The big question is . . .
If the league had to use instant replay, which the referees couldn't, and there's no remedy, why not stand behind your guys and say nothing?
Popovich refused to make it an issue, saying he'd have made the call.
Barry agreed as did the other Spurs -- since Popovich told them that was how they felt. Barry actually left the floor with his arms outstretched, asking where the foul call was.
That's where it should have ended.
Talk radio in San Antonio might never have been the same, but otherwise it would have been quickly forgotten.
How to characterize this?
The NBA blew up last spring's playoffs, suspending the Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for approaching, but not participating, in a mill-around, after the Spurs' Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the scorer's table.
That was when NBA vice president Stu Jackson gave his memorable defense:
"It's not a matter of fairness, it's a matter of correctness."
The Spurs, who had just seen the Suns tie the series, 2-2, in San Antonio, closed Phoenix out, dispatched Utah in five games and Cleveland in four.
TV ratings for the Finals were the worst ever.
Given the fact the league set it up, that was a matter of fairness.
You'd have thought the league had learned its lesson -- and it looked as if it had, with a notably lighter presence this postseason -- until Wednesday.
This, presumably, was a product of last summer's Tim Donaghy scandal, which the league promised to address with greater "transparency."
Actually, the Donaghy scandal has gone away and this was unnecessary.
Tragically, this is going on the head of Joey Crawford because of his past battles with the Spurs.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Here's how 6,640 viewers voted in an online vote on the question: Should a foul have been called on the Lakers' Derek Fisher when he bumped into the Spurs' Brent Barry in the final seconds of the Lakers' Game 4 win?
*--* 77.3 % 22.7 % No, it was a good non-call Yes, a foul is a foul *--*