Monday, December 18, 2006

BasketBrawl 2.0

If ever there were a punk move in sports, it's got to be cheap-shotting an opponent, then blaming the opponent for running up the score. Once and for all, citizens of the world: If you don't like your opponent running up the score, play better. This is the big leagues. Your incompetence is not your opponent's problem.
- King Kaufman in Salon (h/t supersaurus commenting at Yglesias)

While I have some more rambling thoughts on "L'affaire d'Madison Square" over at TWT (thesis: Brad Radke and Carmello Anthony, kindred spirits. If that doesn't hook you, I dunno what does...), I've been surprised that I have shared in the modal reaction (see Yglesias and commenters as well as the majority of the FD commentariat: 'Melo (Namond Bryce, you mean? Nice catch, Yogo...) shouldn't have swung; Nate Robinson is a jackass; Mardy Collins didn't do anything that bad (and was probably put in an impossible position by Zeke); Stern overreacted, but the main (and unpunished) villain of the piece is fucking Isiah Thomas. Has there been a sports figure that has managed to so thoroughly destroy so many things as Isiah?

In any event, I think Mark Stein at ESPN captures my thoughts perfectly (and is behind the Insider wall) so:
Instant reactions to the main MSG Fight Night penalties meted out Monday by NBA commissioner David Stern:

Carmelo Anthony: 15 games
Too many games ... way too many when you hear that Isiah Thomas will sit out zero games. Seven to 10 games was a sensible range to me.

Don't forget that Orlando's Keyon Dooling and Seattle's Ray Allen got five and three games, respectively, for a scrap that happened less than a year ago. Melo's sucker punch, when things were finally dying down, was certainly more egregious than what Dooling and Allen did ... but not three or four times worse.

(One footnote: Any league suspension longer than 12 games entitles the suspended player to an arbitration hearing, but I'm told Anthony has not yet decided whether he plans to seek a reduction.)

Nate Robinson: 10 games
Five games less than Melo? Nobody -- not even Anthony -- escalated this thing more than Robinson, needlessly jumping in the faces of multiple Nuggets in his latest attempt to prove how big and tough he is.

Little Nate never landed the kind of roundhouse that got Melo in trouble. But his transgressions were right up there with Melo's.

And neither Robinson nor Thomas has shown a shred of remorse, either. Anthony, at the very least, issued a lengthy apology.

J.R. Smith: 10 games
This thing probably never gets near paying customers if not for Robinson. But Smith tumbled into the baseline seats with Nate and was later seen throwing a punch. So even if he was goaded, Smith's actions outweigh any alibis.

It should be obvious now that NBA fights will forever be scored differently -- and met with harsher punishments than yesteryear -- because each new fight dredges up memories and footage and commentary about the Malice of Auburn Hills.

Mardy Collins: Six games
Collins' inexcusable foul on Smith triggered the melee, and a two-handed hit that hard has to be met with a stringent penalty.

But I also believe -- taking my cue from insiders with both teams -- that he was merely a rookie doing what he was told by his coach.

Doesn't get Collins off the hook, obviously, but it apparently happened the night before, too: Collins was sent into garbage time of the Knicks' blowout loss at Indiana and picked up a flagrant foul in the final two minutes.

Isiah Thomas: Zero games
Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

You can argue that Zeke deserved to be hit hardest of anyone involved, frankly, given the MSG footage clearly showing Thomas telling Anthony that it "wouldn't be a good idea" to venture into the paint.

Isn't that proof of premeditation? An unmistakable threat?

The Knicks' spin -- Isiah was imploring Melo to show more class than his coach? -- is laughable.

Unlike players who lose control in the heat of the moment, I'm quite sure Thomas knew exactly what he was doing.

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