That's playoff basketball (I really hate that cliche).
It's amazing how quickly things have heated up in this round, particularly between the Rockets and the Lakers. In a seven game series, seeing the same guys night after night, knowing all too well what brand of deodorant they use (assuming they use one, <cough>Luis Scola</cough>), you can certain understand why tensions mount. But this is game two people! At this rate of escalation, it's going to be the Crips and the Bloods by game 6 (would you believe Jets and Sharks by game 7?)
But I just don't get the suspense over the potential suspensions. Or rather, I get it, because the NBA is so bloody inconsistent on this subject, who knows what they'll do. But isn't it pretty obvious what should happen?
Kobe Bryant - no suspension. Seriously folks, I dislike Kobe as much as the next guy, but that was a pretty run of the mill elbow from what we can infer given that there's no clean camera angle on it. (That's part of the issue of course - there's simply no way you can suspend a guy based on what we've been shown on that play. If Stu Jackson has a better angle on it, that could change things.) And the whole "Dwight Howard was suspended so Kobe has to be suspended" logic doesn't wash for me. Not that I necessarily agreed with Howard's suspension, but he lined up Dalembert after a made bucket. Kobe was trying to get Artest off his back, and it was in the context of the play. Did the refs on the court miss it? Did they blow the call? Of course they did. Is it a suspendable offense. No way.
Derek Fisher - obvious suspension, at least one game if not two. Look, I'm telling you guys what I would do. I have no idea what Stu Jackson is going to do - he constantly surprises me. But Fisher's hockey forecheck was absolutely ridiculous. Again, taking into consideration the context of the game, he absolutely leveled Scola, without disguising his intent in the least. Part of the problem here is the NBA's slavish devotion to literal interpretations of the rulebook. So, there wasn't a punch, there wasn't an elbow, oh dear, what do we do? What are we really looking for though? Non basketball plays that are dangerous. That's it, right? Now, you can argue whether there was any real danger to Scola - rugby players take that hit all day long without any pads, so no, Fisher's not going to actually injure Scola. But that's not the point - the point is if Fisher hits Scola that hard, with intent, outside the context of the game, and doesn't get a significant punishment, then the next guy is going to hit even harder. By the way, I'd consider fining Phil Jackson for making a mockery of his press conference with the whole "We had a foul to give, he was fighting through the screen" thing. Give me a break, PJ. We're not idiots, and neither are you. Don't insult our intelligence.
(That reminds me of the incident between Raja Bell and Kobe a couple of years ago. Bell hit Kobe, got ejected. They asked him why. He didn't make up some story. He didn't re-invent reality, saying "I didn't hit him, it was an accident." He told the truth. "I'm tired of eating his elbows and the refs aren't helping me. I got pissed off and I hit him, because I don't like the pompous ass." That's how you handle it. Don't lie to us Phil.)
Ron Artest - no suspension. I actually don't think anyone believes he will be suspended, but just for good measure I thought I'd include him in the discussion. He didn't make contact with anything other than his chest, and he's already the aggrieved party in all of this, getting a personal foul, a technical foul and an ejection while Kobe got nothing. There obviously should be no suspension for Artest. Continuing the above aside, I thought he handled himself surprisingly well in the post-game interview about the incident. I dislike Ron-Ron, but he came out of this incident looking like a reasonable fellow.
Rafer Alston - no suspension. Switching games, I wouldn't suspend Alston either. This is where people are going to say I'm being inconsistent, but Alston's slap was, to me, much like Artest getting in Kobe's face. It was an attention getter. He didn't even swing hard. Artest was saying to Kobe "You're pissing me off and I want you to stop." That's what Skip was saying to House. The actual contact reminded me of something I would do to a friend who's being annoying. It was a Three Stooges slap. "Why, I oughta...." Someone on the game thread last night said Alston shouldn't be suspended, but instead he should be mocked mercilessly. That sounds about right to me.
There you go. Those are my common sense suspensions. No "open fist versus closed fist", "above the neck versus below the neck" literalistic wrangling. Just common sense, this is what needs to happen. Derek Fisher needs to be punished to send a message - for all the others, let's lace 'em up Friday.
I realize of course that one man's common sense is another man's idiocy. So let the debate begin. What would you do?
I don't know who is hosting the traveling game thread for Cavs-Hawks tonight. The game is on ESPN at 5 PM Pacific, and there should be a game thread somewhere. I'm getting on a plane in a couple of hours, so I won't be able to provide any update, but Basketball John will probably have an update about the game thread on SLC Dunk before tip off, so you can always check there.