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Monday, December 18, 2006

Knicks vs. Nuggets: The Response

Now THERE's the David Stern we all know and love.

I was getting a little concerned that Mr. Stern was going soft when he backed down on the whole "synthetic ball" fiasco. I mean -- he's David freakin' Stern -- since when does a little unfair labor practices complaint bother David Stern?

Mr. Stern was back on point today, handing out suspensions like they were those small-and-unsatisfying candy canes you get from Santa's elves at the mall...

  • Carmelo Anthony: 15 games
  • Nate Robinson: 10 games
  • J. R. Smith: 10 games
  • Mardy Collins: 6 games
  • Jared Jeffries: 4 games
  • Nene: 1 game
  • Jerome James: 1 game

If you're wondering how these penalties compare with recent NBA history, has a recap of some of the NBA's greatest fights. This thing reads like a commercial for one of those "Pride Fighting" pay-per-view events -- but it's hard to imagine why the epic Knicks/Heat brawl in the '98 playoffs doesn't merit its own bullet point. I mean, c'mon -- how often do you see Jeff VanGundy clinging to Alonzo Mourning's leg like a fireman sliding down a pole?

Not often enough.

But enough of ancient history.

Does the punishment fit the crime? Probably. Everyone knew that 'Melo was going to get hit hardest... partially because he threw gasoline on the fire by taking a swing at Collins after the initial flare-up had died out... and partially because he's by far the biggest-name player involved, and David Stern don't play dat. I'm actually sort of surprised that Robinson didn't get the same penalty as Anthony. Little Nate's role in fanning the flames was pretty obvious, and he's been anything but repentant.

The sentences for Smith and Jeffries seem about right, and Nene and James got the automatic one-game rip for leaving the bench. (It's hard to fault James... he doesn't get to leave the bench that often these days.)

Conspicuous by his absence: Isiah Thomas. And y'know what? I'm glad.

This is probably the first and last time I'll defended Isiah in this space... but c'mon. The basketball world spent 24 hours foaming at the mouth over the possibility that (gasp) Thomas told Carmelo Anthony not to go into the paint before the fight broke out. The most shrill of the voices, the Daily News' Mike Lupica, says Thomas was threatening Anthony.

And I say: so what if he was?

Has the NBA really reached the point where a hard foul against a guy attempting a showy dunk in extended garbage-time (please pronounce that with the French inflection... gar-BAHGE... as Marv Albert would have) merits this amount of outcry?

George Karl was running up the score. There's no other explanation for the fact that four starters (Anthony, Smith, Marcus Camby and Andre Miller) and a key rotation player (Eduardo Najera) were still in the game with Denver up by 19 and a minute left. Why? Because he doesn't like Isiah Thomas. He wanted to embarrass the Knicks, the way the Knicks embarrassed his buddy Larry Brown.

Nice? No. Good sportsmanship? Hardly. But part of the game.

Thomas apparently responded by telling his team that the old "no layup rule" was in effect; that any Nugget who attempted to dunk should get a hard foul.

Nice? No. Good sportsmanship? Hardly. But part of the game.

Did Collins hit Smith too hard? Yes. Was Collins in the game specifically to foul someone? Odds of that seem pretty good... considering it was his second flagrant foul in two games. Could Collins have committed a hard foul in a less egregious manner? Absolutely. He could have at least pretended to go for the block.

That said... c'mon. Stop the whining. Home run hitters get fastballs in on the hands. Quarterbacks absorb enormous hits in the guise of "blocking" during interception returns. And guys who attempt NBA Jam-style dunks in garbage time get fouled. Blame punk behavior from Nate Robinson and Carmelo Anthony. Don't blame Isiah.


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