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Old as Dirt
11-24-2004, 12:56 PM
I have not seen this posted, if it has I am sorry. But at last someone has the guts to stand up for truth. May not agree with all 100% but most.

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HoopsHype.com Columns

Stern rewards Detroit's latest Bad Boys
by Dennis Hans / November 23, 2004


The one thing NBA Commissioner David Stern left out of his Bloody Sunday ruling that decimated the Indiana Pacers is the name of the winner of the 2004-05 Eastern Conference Most Valuable Non-Player (MVNP) award. Turns out that three Detroit Piston Bad-Boy wannabes tied for first.

So far, only one has been identified: John Green, the guy who struck gold – actually, Pacers’ black and gold – with an underhand toss of a cup that apparently contained some ice and a few ounces of unidentified
beverage. Ron Artest was wearing the black and gold, and he took off after the man (the wrong man, it turns out) he thought had made the toss.

Green’s co-MVNPs, like Green himself, were decked out in Pistons’ jerseys that fateful Friday night. Each made his way onto the court during the melee and goaded a Pacer to put up his dukes. If we go strictly by weight, each match appeared to be a fair fight. But both Artest and Jermaine O’Neal had a considerable advantage in height, reach and reflexes over their pudgy, pro-Piston adversaries, and each Pacer landed a decisive blow.

That, we may safely assume, suited the two young fans just fine. Each did what Detroit coach Larry Brown preaches: He gave up his body for the good of the team. Just as gutsy Piston reserves Darvin Ham or Lindsey Hunter might step in the path of a hard-driving opponent in an attempt to draw an offensive foul, the two fans baited a Pacer and then stuck their face in the way of a wicked punch.

Granted, it’s unfair to compare what these two fans did after play was halted with what Hunter and Ham do as Piston players. Unfair to the fans, that is. When it’s all said and done, they will surely have contributed more than Hunter and Ham – to say nothing of the players at the end of the bench – to the Pistons’ effort to prevent Indiana from seizing the Eastern Conference crown.

The upside of Stern, now in his 21st year as NBA commissioner, far surpasses his downside. But he and his administration have a bad habit of assigning erroneous value to actions on and off the court. The end result, too often, is penalties that are so out of whack that they end up serving as inducements to commit the very acts Stern wishes to curtail.

Consider the on-court play that kicked off the melee:

Ben Wallace gets past his defender with a nice move and elevates for what should be an easy layup and two points. Artest, guarding a different Piston, watches the play develop from several feet away, moves to get into position to make a defensive play of some kind, realizes he is too late to block the shot or strip away the ball – that is, make a defensive stop without committing a foul – and figures he might as well push Ben in the back hard enough to make him miss the shot and get under his skin, but not so hard as to draw a “flagrant foul” or put Ben at risk for injury. Ben doesn’t appreciate the shove, coming in the last minute of a game the Pacers have in the bag, so he answers Artest’s shove with a much harder one of his own. Within minutes, there’s a riot going on.

David Stern’s NBA, in its infinite stupidity, has a rules regime that rewards what Artest did on Wallace’s drive to the basket. If that play had occurred in the middle of the fourth quarter of a close game, Artest would have been rightly praised for committing what the announcers typically describe as a “smart foul” or a “good, clean, hard foul,” because instead of surrendering a sure two points, Artest’s foul would force Wallace to “earn it at the line.”

Wallace, a poor shooter, would have to sink both awarded free throws to earn back the sure two points stolen by Artest’s intentional shove. Even if Wallace misses just one, Artest and the Pacers have won. And since no player in the league makes all of his free throws, it is the smart percentage play to commit a forceful but not-gratuitously-violent foul whenever the defender realizes he can’t prevent a near-certain deuce with a non-fouling maneuver. (The only time it’s not a smart play is when the defender is a key player who’s in foul trouble.)

If there were just one person in the commissioner’s office who knew that three is greater than two, the league could solve this problem. The NBA could establish a rule that says this: “If the official determines that a defender deliberately committed a foul to prevent what appeared to be an easy field goal, the penalty is three points – two for the fouled player, who gets credit for a made field goal, and an additional ‘penalty point’ for his team.”

That would be the penalty for a “clean” intentional foul. Suspensions would accompany intentional fouls that the official deems to be malicious or provocative, or that endanger a vulnerable airborne driver.

See, penalties can only work as a deterrent if they actually penalize. If the “penalty” is a disguised reward, it serves as an inducement for teams to establish a policy of always committing hard, clean, intentional fouls when caught in a hopeless defensive situation.

The penalties Stern handed down following the melee will, most definitely, deter players from entering the stands. But he could have achieved the same effect with half the penalty. If Artest had been suspended for 36 rather than 73 games, meaning he would forego about $2 million in salary for the missed games, that would seem to be a pretty strong deterrent. Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal, two players with a history of responsible behavior, would surely have gotten the message with more reasonable suspensions of 15 and 12 games, respectively.

With Artest, the Pacers’ are a strong title contender. With him suspended for the season and presumably the postseason, and with a lower playoff seeding because of all the games he and his teammates will miss,
the Pacers are a long shot. All because he committed the very kind of intentional foul that the NBA rewards, which led the normally unflappable Wallace to attack Artest, which set in motion all that followed. Maybe Stern should add to his list of suspendees the dummies who sit on the Rules and Competition Committee.

Aside from their draconian nature, the other problem with Stern’s penalties is that they reward the Piston fans who taunted and provoked the Pacer players. Those fans proved to themselves and fans everywhere that they really can make a difference. It’s one thing to make noise, transmit positive vibes, or wave balloons to distract an opposing shooter. That’s small potatoes. But to derail a team that posed the greatest threat to your hometown heroes’ hopes of returning to the NBA Finals – that’s huge.

Piston fans have raised the bar. Let’s see if San Antonio’s notorious “Baseline Bums” can provoke Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, thereby eliminating the team that’s most likely to defeat the Spurs in the Western Conference. Stern’s ruling gives the Bums all the incentive they need. Are they up to the task?