I have never pretended to be a huge NBA fan. I’m a Lakers fan by default (if my memory serves me correctly, the Dodgers and Lakers were on a continuous loop at my grandparents’ house), so I actually have many great Kareem/Magic/Worthy/Shaq/Kobe playoff memories. But, I refuse to actually watch a whole game during the first half of the season.
Do I watch the highlights? Of course, but the only greater waste of time than sitting through an early-season NBA game (in a league that ends with half of the teams reaching the playoffs), is watching pre-season NFL games. Naturally, following the results of every Spring Training game makes complete sense to me.
I agree that it was a hard foul and due to Price’s botched landing/faceplant, I would even agree that it should be considered a Tech-1. But a Tech-2 and an ejection? I was stunned. The refs even came to the conclusion after reviewing the play on the sidelines! So, I have to ask the question, is the NBA getting too soft?
The thought first came to mind while reading Dan Patrick’s interview of Larry Bird in this last week’s Sports Illustrated. Bird was asked to compare the physicality of the game when he played to today’s on-court product. Bird said, "We had a no-layup rule. Just about everybody in the league did. Our regular-season games used to be rougher than our playoffs now, but the playoffs took it to a different level. Now when you get hit hard, you expect a flagrant."
Then, a few days ago I came across J.E. Skeets’ Ball Don’t Lie blog on Yahoo! and read his article about Bird losing it in a playoff game against the Pistons after Bill Laimbeer laid the smackdown on him. After watching a true ejection-deserving technical, I could really see how much the game has changed. A guy with a reputation of playing dirty slams arguably the best player in the game to the floor…just because he was trying to work the paint! Can you imagine how many heads would roll if Boozer body-slammed Kobe? How about ‘Sheed horse-collaring LeBron as he takes it to the rack? How many season-long suspensions would that lead to?
Look, I understand that trying to injure another player has no place in the game, but it bothers me when common sense is overruled by public relations. Yes, here I go again…it is my opinion that the NBAer’s recent history of off-court shenanigans/crimes against humanity has resulted in the contact-equates-to-a-foul version of the game we see today.
David Stern had to do something after countless run-ins with the law by his employees, right? He had to salvage the product and the NBA’s reputation, right? He had to create the public-relations-machine NBA Cares, right? He had to make sure his top-tier stars kept the focus on the court, right? So then isn’t it a natural step that no hard fouls would be tolerated? And that – no matter what – players leaving the bench would lead to automatic suspensions?
Well, I understand Stern’s business motivation, but was Turiaf getting tossed yesterday and Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw getting suspended in last year’s playoffs after Steve Nash got whacked by Robert Horry, really creating a better product on the court? I really doubt it. No, I think the real goal is to create the appearance that if Stern won’t accept rough play on the court, then he won’t accept it off the court.
Trust me, I wish I was wrong. Unfortunately, the league’s image problems and its way-too-valuable-to-lose-to-injury stars have steered the game even further away from the NBA’s glory days of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
Is the game better off? Nope. Are the fans better off? A good question. Does anyone really care? An even better question.
Baseball Jones ~~ Hustling since 1980