Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Basketbrawl: Knicks vs. Nuggets

After the huge brawl Sunday night, there is a lot of debate on the state of professional basketball and what should happen in this particular incident. Here is an article on the brawl and a commentary on the New York Times web site.

Note: I've never claimed to be unbiased, but expect a little extra bias in this article. Jared Jeffries is a Bloomington native - he graduated from Bloomington High School North and went on to attend Indiana University.

There's plenty of blame to go around here. The hard (possibly flagrant) foul by a Knicks player was unnecessary with the game already decided. New York players may feel disrespected, but that is not the proper way to express discontent.

After reading the articles and watching a video of the brawl, it is clear to me that the worst behavior of the night came from Carmeo Anthony. After order had been mostly restored and people were calming down, Anthony sucker-punched a Knicks player and then ran away from the scuffle.

Anthony's cowardly, spineless cheap shot and hasty retreat reminds one of a "heel" in professional wrestling who attacks his opponent from behind with a steel chair. The obvious difference here is that Anthony's despicable act was not part of a storyline. I do not condone Jeffries chasing Anthony down the court with intent to retaliate on behalf of his teammate, but I understand why he did.

So what should the punishments be? Chris Mannix suggests a suspension of 30 games (!) for Anthony. If it is confirmed that Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas ordered a hard foul, he should also get a stiff punishment.

The brawl has brought forth the predictable complaining about how much NBA players are paid. I do not think this is a fair criticism. Players make huge salaries because the market commands it. The NBA would not have those millions to spend if not for ticket sales, merchandise sales, and lucrative television deals. If the money did not go to the players, it would go to the owners. I see much less complaining about owners raking in millions than I do players.

I'm not convinced that the NBA is any worse than other professional sports, especially the NHL. The NBA, however, is under a brighter spotlight because of the Pacers/Pistons brawl two years ago. Fairly or not, players need to recognize that and hold themselves to a higher standard.