The state of the NBA in :45 seconds.

ISSUE: NBA officiating is a farce; the regular season is an endless bore.

The Godfather Commissioner Stern largely succeeded in making the Tim Donaghy scandal disappear, but skepticism lingers. Conspiracy or not, there's no doubt that referees have a disproportionate effect on the outcome of NBA games; you might as well write down the NBA's final four (Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio and L.A.) in pen right now. The comically imbalanced salary structure'that's $42 million man Corey Maggette up there'inevitably leads to a sense of entitlement and lackadaisical play. The main NBA topic this year has been the countdown to the 2010 free agent bonanza. When teams like the Knicks are already openly jockeying for LeBron, Wade and Bosh, it further cheapens a regular season that's about as compelling as the last two minutes of an NBA game. Which is to say, pointlessly drawn out and interminably long. Hockey, on the other hand? The hard cap has resulted in more of a meritocracy; the speed and aggressive nature of the game precludes players from "taking the night off"; star players don't get the "LeTravel" bias; and, of course: instant karma. You really need to get familiar.

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