Another season, another
December 16 appears
destined to be a day of infamy for the NBA. On this night, the
New York Knicks were hosting the Denver Nuggets. The game was
nearly over, with 1:23 left in the game and the Nuggets up by 19.
Apparently, Denver player J.R Smith was trying for back-to-back dunks
when New York player Mardy Collins clotheslined him, having had enough
of Denver showing off with a big lead and leaving their starters in the
That started a wild fight, where in the midst of it all, Nate Robinson
and J. R. Smith were so intent on beating each other to a pulp that
they ended up in the stands still going at each other.
Coaches, refs, and security finally had to break everyone up on and off
the court. When a frighteningly similar fight between the
Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, severe measures were
taken. Indiana, once considered a mortal lock to make the NBA
Finals, spent all season juggling lineups as several key players,
including Ron Artest, served what were then the longest fight-related
suspensions in NBA history.
Granted, it's a valid point that when you're up 20 with 90 seconds left
in the game, your starters have no business being in the game, as
Denver did; and you shouldn't be stupid enough to try embarrassing the
home team like Smith did.
But that's no excuse for what happened. This was such a brawl
that ALL TEN PLAYERS on the court at the time were ejected. For
the Nuggets, it was Marcus Camby, Andre Miller, Eduardo Najera, J. R.
Smith, and Carmelo Anthony. On the Knicks, it was Channing Frye,
David Lee, Mardy Collins, Nate Robinson, and Jared Jeffries.
This needs to stop. The League tried to be reasonable last time
and apparently nobody listened. All ten players should be
suspended without pay for the season, and anyone throwing honest-to-god
punches should be suspended next
season as well. Further, I think the league should make both
teams forfeit their remaining regular seasons games against each other,
as well as this game. That's right, losses for both teams.
Then there should be fines commensurate with their utter failure to act
like adults. $500,000 each for the players, and another $500,000
for the idiot who started it.
Sooner or later, if this keeps up, someone is going to be seriously
hurt or killed. The League has to be tough here, otherwise it
WILL happen again. Last time, an arbitrator softened some of the
measures taken against players. No more. The NBA needs to
send a clear message, and if someone tries to mitigate it, then the NBA
should file criminal charges against all 10 players who fought, and the
coaches, for facilitating this. George Karl, especially, needs to
explain why his starters were in a game they had zero chance of
losing. It's no less than taunting the team and running up the
score. It would be one thing if the bench was playing, but why is
it that Carmelo Anthony, etc., were out there in the first place?
Everyone is waiting for the League's official reaction. It won't
be long, as they're headquartered in NYC. I expect they've
already got game tapes. If they really, truly, want this not to
happen again, both the players and their teams need to face
unprecedented sanctions for their actions out on the court. I,
for one, urge the League to take the most drastic measures permissible
under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
This HAS to be the last time, before someone is hurt, or even killed
for this stupidity.
Addendum, December 18: Today, the NBA handed out it's lackluster
punishments to New York and Denver. Carmelo Anthony of the
Nuggets will sit out 15 games. Teammate J. R. Smith wil be out 10
games, as will Nate Robinson of the Knicks. The Knicks lose Mardy
Collins and Jared Jeffries for 6 and 4 games respectively; as teammate
Jerome James and Denver's Nene each sit for 1 game. Each team was
fined $500,000 as incentive to stop turning basketball games into
Citing a lack of "definitive information", NBA Commissioner David Stern
failed to impose any kind of fine on Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas, despite
public statements that just before the hard foul that started things
off, Thomas specifically warned Carmelo Anthony to stay out of the
paint. Thomas doesn't deny he said that, but offers up the lame
excuse that he was trying to impart a lesson in sportsmanship.
This from the guy who recently yelled at his team to "break the feet"
of an opposing player.
Thomas is skating because Stern is trying to be fair--Stern knows, as
do we all, that Coach Thomas essentially ordered the deliberate hard
foul. Not that Mardy Collins seemed in any way adverse to taking
down an oponent by the neck. Stern, an attorney, believes
in punishing what he can prove. But this is not a court of law,
and it's not a democracy, it's the NBA--as the many fines levied
against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for public mouthing off
Thomas should have been suspended for the season--and, frankly,
the team should fire him for cause, but that's their problem. I
stated earlier, and still firmly believe, that everyone involved in the
fight should have sat out the season. Yes, that essentially ends
Denver's season--and the Knicks weren't going anywhere but the lottery
anyway--but nobody, aside from Thomas, ordered them to commit acts of
incredible stupidity that endangered players and fans
alike. The NBA missed a chance to come down on this with both
The annoying part is that even the 15 game suspencion for Anthony can
he hypothetically appealed, since the CBA allows arbitration of any
suspension longer than 12 games. Since several people are
mouthing platitudes like "It's not as bad as the Pacers/Pistons brawl",
any arbitration will likely benefit Anthony. Baloney. Any
time you have every player on the court fighting, with at least two of
them spilling over into the front row, it's every bit as bad.
Just not as visibly disturbing.
I haven't forgotten George Karl, who also seems incapable of keeping
his big mouth shut. Today, he insisted that having his starters
on the floor with 75 seconds left in a 19 point blowout was not meant
to run up the score, going so far as to literally swear on his
children's life. One wonders, then what boneheaded, asinine
reason he had for risking serious injury to his starters in a game
there was no way to lose. He said, "My team has had trouble
holding leads at the end of games. I didn't want the score to get
under 10 points because if it would've gotten under 10 points it
would've had a negative feeling on my team."
Nice to know that George has so little faith in his team that he thinks
the bench can blow a 19 point lead in 75 seconds. If they're THAT
bad, they DESERVE to lose the lead. For the sole reason that I
don't want to offend George's kids, I won't call him a snivelling
liar. I will however, state my belief that he's a lousy
coach. Sadly, there is no fine for running up the score, and no
restrictions on keeping your starters on the floor at the end of a
blowout. Even though an owner can be easily fined for
mcomplaining about the game, a coach can't be punished for sabotaging
As in the case with Thomas, David Stern is settling for what he can
"prosecute", or at least decently prove in the legal sense.
That's one of the real tragedies, that the two men most clearly
responsible for the chain of events leading up to the fight and it's
aftermath have essentially gone unpunished.
Some time in the future, when there's another fight--and with
fainthearted efforts at punishment like this, there WILL be another
one--someone will wail, "if only they'd gotten tougher back when that
brawl in New York happened, this person wouldn't be dead/permanently
Believe me, it's a hell of a lot cheaper to pay now than later. I
implore the Commissioner to revisit the siutuation regarding Thomas and
Karl and mete out the suspensions they so richly deserve. Also,
the players involved need to be held out longer than a handful of
games. The price of doing this needs to be too high to pay, if
there's any hope of precenting another act of blatant idiocy like what
happened in New York.