Joey Crawford Suspended Indefinitely!

Check out David Stern's chat on ESPN, where he says: "We are not getting any satisfaction out of this. Crawford is always one of our highest rated officials. We just did what we had to do."

Memo to league officials: do not mess with Tim Duncan. The Spurs are my pick to win the title.

UPDATE: ESPN's Marc Stein (Insider) writes that this suspension may mark the end of Crawford's career:

Crawford made it clear to NBA executive vice president Stu Jackson on Tuesday that he would eject Duncan again if the circumstances were the same.

Crawford likewise informed superiors (including NBA commissioner David Stern) and fellow referees via e-mail Tuesday that "if my employer does not think that was acceptable, I have a problem" reffing in the future. Crawford has maintained from the start that Duncan deserved two technicals for what he deemed to be disrespecting the game by "laughing [at] and mocking the officials."

Crawford also blasted fellow referee Dick Bavetta in the e-mail obtained by ESPN.com, hinting at divisions among referees between those who do and don't support Bavetta and writing that maybe Bavetta will wind up as the crew chief in Game 7 of the NBA "which is a travesty in itself you even being in the finals."

Stern, in an appearance on Tuesday's "Pardon The Interruption" on ESPN, acknowledged Crawford's discontent, telling co-hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon: "In fairness, I would say that [Crawford] doesn't think he did anything wrong and probably doesn't wish to work in the NBA any more."

Wow. This is so bizarre. Fans have been agitating for a wholesale shakeup of the NBA referee community, and now it's starting to happen in the most unpredictable way possible. What's so bizarre about this is that Crawford is widely regarded as a very talented referee -- albeit maybe one with a tragic flaw -- but he's not, in fact, guilty of the incompetence that is the most common complaint among fans.

Nevertheless, it seems like there's dissension in the ranks, Dick Bavetta's name has entered the conversation, and I feel like we're on a path of change, for better or for worse.

UPDATE: Here's what's so amazing about how this has happened: up until now, it has seemed to me that when fans singled out individual referees for criticism, the league's response was essentially, to close ranks. To hide behind the thin black-and-white line.

But with his big ol' pronouncement yesterday that Joey Crawford is, essentially, a problem referee and problem referees deserve public and long-term punishment, Commissioner Stern has put a little blood in the water for all those fans who love to hate the referees. Is there any chance, now, that NBA fans will be satisfied with just one referee being sidelined? Seems to me that Stern has started a conversation that ends with some big changes. It might take years, and it might be largely for show, but I'd bet it's coming.