30 second time outs

Monday, November 22, 2004

Basketball - back to our roots?

When Naismith invented the game at the old YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891, the game of basketball began. Given the cold Massachusetts winters, Naismith needed to find a recreational activity that could be played indoors and he preferred a sport that would develop skill and one that was not exclusively relying on strength. How far away from that have we gone. The game is very much about bigger, faster, and stronger. Now we need to add "smarter". We need to get back to the game of skill that Naismith intended.

Originally the game was going to be "Boxball" but the janitor didn't have any boxes. So the "baskets" became old peach baskets that the janitor nailed to the balcony railing (that coincidentally were 10 feet high).
Basketball in it's infancy was sometimes a rowdy game. Fans would try to reach over the running track (balcony) to deflect the shot (the basket was mounted on the facade of the overhead running track). And rowdy fans would throw things onto the court... so they erected chicken wire netting, or "cages" around the court to protect the game and players from the fans. The players then got the nickname of "cagers". The term is derived from the Trenton team which put a wire mesh between the floor and its fans after several ugly incidents in the game's early days. There are tales of fans in cramped gyms sticking players with hat pins, and lit cigarettes. In Pennsylvania coal towns, players were known to be subjected to nails heated with mining lamps. The chicken wire was soon replaced with a rope netting, off which the players bounced like prizefighters in a boxing ring. The cage also kept the ball from going out-of-bounds, thus quickening the pace of play. Maybe we are not so far from returning to our roots in that area as well.


The Pistons/Pacers fiasco could be the first step. Pacers forward, Ron Artest started the first wave of altercations with a hard foul on Piston center Ben Wallace. If you are the Defensive Player of the Year, go up and at least try to block it. Late in a game that had long since been decided. Why all of the starting lineups were still in is a mystery to me. Ben Wallace then retaliated with a severe push, threw no more punches and had no more contact with another Pacer. We next witnessed the typical sports altercation. Everyone standing around threatening everyone else and sticking up for their "manhood" while demonstrating little of it.

Now, initially, Artest's intelligence overcame his continued lack of composure and he CHOSE not to respond to Wallace's push (which is why he is healthy and still able to walk the streets and rap today). However when a meekly fan "attacked" him with a half empty plastic cup at him (and I'd like to be the attorney arguing against that as an "attack"), so NOW he's "disrespected". He CHOSE to go into the stands and escalate the event even further. Funny thing happened then - he went after the wrong guy. For attacking an "innocent" bystander I'm sure he'll lose a little more of his NBA money on top of the 5 million or so from the suspension without pay. Getting hit by a half empty plastic cup while you lay like a smart a** on a scorers table as if to say, everyone look at me, I"M not fighting", is hardly life threatening requiring self-defense. PLUS, he passed up three bigger guys to go after the scrawny fan that turned out not to be the one who threw te cup anyway.

Self-defense and retaliation are two different things. Self -defense is when there is imminent and immediate danger and a reasonable belief that the other party intended to inflict great bodily harm or death. I'm not sure that a half empty plastic cup thrown from several rows away is danger of any kind. What Artest did was retaliation.

Jackie Robinson had to deal with 100 times worse. Did he ever do any such thing? Ever hear fans at an event yell at referees? I'm certain they've had things thrown at them. I would bet that you could find several instances of attorneys being vilified by courtroom spectators or outside protestors after unfavorable verdicts. Probably even had things thrown at them. Yet I do not ever remember hearing of any attorney turning around and attacking those mentioned in the courtroom. And if they did, I'd bet they'd be fired by the firm. Or most probably disbarred.

Stephen Jackson, under the guise of "helping a member of his family", went into the stands - AND RAN RIGHT PAST a swarmed Artest (some help he was), punching another fan not even involved in that altercation. If you look at the tape it was he who really escalated the matter with all the jawing during the typical pro athlete standoff at center court. His 30 games may not have been enough.

Jermain O'Neal's 25 games are about the same as Kermit Washington got for punching Rudy Tomjanovich in an attempt to protect Kareem Abdul Jabbar. If O'Neal threw the same punch at a player in the context of a game, it would have been less. O'neals punch may have been the most dangerous, but it happened in "his domain" on the court - where the players are supposed to be. For that reason O'Neal's suspension may be a litle harsh, even though he tried to get in the stands he can't be punished for something "he wanted to do". In this case it was the fans on the court that were in the wrong the most and put themselves in harms way. The fan O'Neal punched may have been a little defenseless (he was getting up off of the ground-that may have been factored in). But how does a player know that it is not a Monica Seles (tennis player who was stabbed by a fan) or Tom Gamboa (Kansas City Royals 1st base coach who was attacked by fans on the field).

Ben Wallace retaliated and pushed someone who fouled him, and got 6 games (the same as Rick Fox got when he fought Christie) Wallace. Probably happens a once a week in the NBA. And then he threw a towel. Can't suspend him more for that. You have to punish the action for what it was - not how everyone else reacted to it. That's why he didn't get more. Stern issued a suspension based on those events. It could be argued that he got too much. Did anyone see the Chicago/Washington brawl IN THE PRESEASON! On 10/27/04 The NBA suspended Brendan Haywood (Was) for 3 games, Antonio Davis (Chi) for 2 games, Eddy Curry (Chi) for 2 games, and Larry Hughes (Was) for 1 games and fined Kirk Hinrich (Chi) $10,000 for their involvement in the melee during the Chi-Was game. The suspensions started with the beginning of the regular season. Haywood was WAAAAY more out of control than Wallace. It is all about consistency and precedent that determines the length of suspensions. The NBA came down with the fines and suspensions for a fight in the Lakers-Chicago game on 1/14/02. Shaquille O'Neal (LAL) was fined $15,000 and suspended 3 games for throwing punches at Brad Miller after O'Neal was fouled hard by Miller and Charles Oakley. Sounds like the same thing that Wallace did, doesn't it? So Wallace's suspension was about right.

The most overlooked aspect of the rumble, and maybe the most shocking was the behavior of Rasheed Wallace. He was a major peacmaker throughout the altercation, on the court and in the stands. BIG props to Rasheed. I have always respected his game but have NEVER been a fan of his attitude. He was the calmest person involved. In Portand, he would have been in the stands throwing punches right along with everybody else. It shows that players CAN change given the right circumstances. Lets hope Artest does.

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