Monday, December 18, 2006

Fight Night

In case you haven't seen it, here's the fight from the closing minutes of Saturday night's Nuggets/Knicks game:

The NBA responded today, handing out suspensions to the players involved. The Nuggets Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's scoring leader, got the longest sentence - 15 games. Mardy Collins, who committed the flagrant foul on J.R. Smith, got 6 games. And Smith and Nate Robinson got 10 games each.

But the real story is the suspension that wasn't: Knicks coach Isiah Thomas. Thomas was evidently upset that Anthony & Smith, the Nuggets two leading scorers, were still in the game. He was shown by MSG TV telling Anthony, "You better not go in the paint." A minute later, Collins, a rookie averaging 3.6 minutes per game, committed his second flagrant foul in as many nights, sparking the fight.

I'm with ESPN's Marc Stein on the following issues, posted on his blog:
Carmelo Anthony: 15 games

Too many games ... way too many when you hear that Isiah Thomas will sit out zero games. Seven to 10 games was a sensible range to me.

Don't forget that Orlando's Keyon Dooling and Seattle's Ray Allen got five and three games, respectively, for a scrap that happened less than a year ago. Melo's sucker punch, when things were finally dying down, was certainly more egregious than what Dooling and Allen did ... but not three or four times worse.

Nate Robinson: 10 games
Five games less than Melo? Nobody -- not even Anthony -- escalated this thing more than Robinson, needlessly jumping in the faces of multiple Nuggets in his latest attempt to prove how big and tough he is.

Little Nate never landed the kind of roundhouse that got Melo in trouble. But his transgressions were right up there with Melo's.

And neither Robinson nor Thomas has shown a shred of remorse, either. Anthony, at the very least, issued a lengthy apology.

Isiah Thomas: Zero games

Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

You can argue that Zeke deserved to be hit hardest of anyone involved, frankly, given the MSG footage clearly showing Thomas telling Anthony that it "wouldn't be a good idea" to venture into the paint.

Isn't that proof of premeditation? An unmistakable threat?

The Knicks' spin -- Isiah was imploring Melo to show more class than his coach? -- is laughable.

Unlike players who lose control in the heat of the moment, I'm quite sure Thomas knew exactly what he was doing.
The Sports Guy (Bill Simmons) also chimed in during a live chat today:
Nic (Madison, WI): I watched the replay of the fight about 15 times instead of studying for my exam in an hour. I thought that Nate Robinson should have gotten a stiffer punishment for his role. What do you think?

Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Nate Robinson is crazy. Just last week, he nearly got into a fight with Sebastian Telfair for the second time this season. He got in 2 separate fights with teammates last year, including a naked School Ties type fight with Malik Rose in the shower.

Chris, Seattle: and The fact that everyone makes such a big deal about an NBA brawl and not so much about a MLB brawl smacks of Racism, I don't care what people say.

Bill Simmons: Couldn't agree more. Everyone involved in this fight was black, so the players are now "out of control" and the whole thing is "a disgrace." But when a white baseball player charges a white pitcher, it's all in good fun. It's a little weird.

Gus (Cold Spring Harbor, NY): While Karl was trying to get under Isiah's skin, he is absolutely entitled to play whoever he wants on the floor at any time of the game. Denver has blown late leads this season and the Knicks have come back many times from huge gaps (only to fall short). Incidentally, can this team be any worse if Spike Lee took over?

Bill Simmons: Absolutely. You know what's embarrassing, Isiah? The fact that your team keeps losing at home by 20 points every game. Stop blaming the other teams.

Yogi(NY): My favorite line was Isiah saying "we had already surrendered." In a city where "it 'aint [sic] over till its over" was he referring to the game or the season? Thank God for Isiah Thomas!

Bill Simmons: I loved that as well - also liked when he talked about how they were being embarrassed in front of "their fans." Um, your fans hate this team, [I]siah. Hear that booing sound every game? That means they're unhappy. Everyone who follows this team is hoping you get fired. That's more embarrassing than [G]eorge Karl leaving his starters in, I think.

Matt (Philly, PA): Are we seriously going to complain in professional sports about running up a score? If you don't like it, don't have a team out there that can't play a lick, the Knicks should lose by 50 everynight [sic] against anyone, except my Sixers who will shortly not be my Sixers once AI is gone.

Bill Simmons: Hear hear.

Charles (Miami): I think what everybody's missing from the Carmelo suspension is what could've happen[e]d had that punch done real damage (ala Rudy T). Luckily, he hits like [a] girl and Collins is fine. Otherwise, 15 games would be charity.

Bill Simmons: And that's the reason he got the suspension. Look, I'm fine with Melo getting 15 games, but then Isiah should get 15, so should Mardy Collins, so should Nate and so should JR Smith. To say that what Melo did was worse than anyone else is crazy. He was defending his teammate and made a mistake.
Anybody who knows me will probably be surprised by me saying this, but I agree with the Sports Guy's point about racism when comparing reactions to NBA fights vs. MLB fights. You never hear anywhere close to the same kind of outrage from the talking heads on ESPN for baseball fights as you do for basketball fights. And I think race is a big underlying factor.

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