Monday, December 18, 2006

My Melo, My Man

The NBA just handed down the suspensions from Saturday night’s brawl. Carmelo Anthony, currently the league’s leading scorer and a contender for most valuable player received the harshest penalty, a 15-game suspension. Knicks guard Nate Robinson and Nuggets guard J.R. Smith garnered 10-game suspensions for their role in the melee and Knicks guard Mardy Collins was hit with a 6-game ban from the court.

I believe the player suspensions were fair. Although, while he threw and landed a punch, I thought Anthony deserved a suspension more in line with what Robinson and Smith received.

What upsets me however is the fact that neither coach was suspended for their role in their fracas. Broadcasters and talk-radio hosts have been comparing the Knicks and Nuggets spat at the garden to the fight that erupted at the Palace at Auburn Hills toward the end of a Pistons and Pacers match two years ago, but Saturday nights events were dramatically different. Yes there was a fight that trickled into the stands, but the comparisons between the two ends there. The Pistons and Pacers were bitter division rivals and the Pacers were the lead challengers to the Pistons throne. In Ben Wallace and Ron Artest the principal protagonists in that fight, you had two of the most aggressive and equally petulant players in the league, therefore making it almost inevitable that as long as these two players continued battling against each other on the court, there was going to be a confrontation sooner or later.

At the same time, you also had two organizations and coaches that had a considerable amount of respect for each other. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle may have been bitter at his dismissal at the hands of Joe Dumars, but he, Larry Brown, Larry Bird and Dumars did not over-hype their falling out. If they did it would be an affront to the hard-working residents of Michigan and Indiana who have been coping with layoffs and firings for the last twenty years without nearly as lucrative back-up plans as Carlisle found in the Pacers. In short, you can not blame the coaches for this battle.

In the Knicks and Nuggets battle however, George Karl and Isaiah Thomas deserve to shoulder part of the blame and punishment for their role in instigating the fight. Karl and the rest of his North Carolina Tar Heel brethren/Larry Brown acolytes need to get over the fact that Brown was fired. Making snide comments in the press and trying to elicit sympathy for Brown is absurd, a fact that Phil Jackson pointed out last month when he called Greg Popovich for advocating for Brown, but none of the other coaches who have faced “unfair” dismissals. Beating the Knicks by sixty will not avenge Larry Brown, and if Marcus Camby were to have gotten injured as he’s wont to do, or worse Anthony, during the closing minutes of that fourth quarter, Karl’s pettiness could have cost his team even more.

Secondly, Isaiah Thomas needs to reel in his players. Thomas is one of the thirty greatest players in the history of his sport and he should realize the difference between players who talk a great game and those who play one. Right now he has a slew of players who talk much better than they produce. His guards are particularly guilty as they each are trying to carry on the legacy of their esteemed coach, but in media laden New York brimming with fans ready to throw any athlete under the bus regardless of how great he is (e.g. Patrick Ewing, Reggie Jackson and Alex Rodriguez) sometimes it’s best to speak softly and play hard and let your performance dictate your legacy (e.g. Derek Jeter and Charles Oakley).

Right now it’s all speculation whether or not Thomas instructed his players to commit hard-fouls on Nuggets players going to the basket, but as more evidence is presented, it’s becoming easier to believe that if he did not do it explicitly, it was conveyed implicitly. Knocking out someone at the end of a game should not be seen as a display of pride, but rather a brazen disregard for the mission at hand, play good basketball, win games, and in the event you lose, learn from your mistakes.

The Nightshift Chronicler

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