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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another Black Eye for the NBA: Fight Night at Madison Square Garden

What seemed like just another blowout loss in a season of blowout losses for the New York Knicks became ugly in a more sinister--and dangerous--way on Saturday night. Denver led New York 119-100 with 1:31 left in the game when the Knicks' Mardy Collins flagrantly fouled J.R. Smith--grabbing him around the neck from behind--to prevent a fast break layup (Collins also had a flagrant foul near the end of New York's blowout loss to Indiana on Friday). Smith tumbled to the ground (Collins made no effort to catch him) and immediately jumped up to confront Collins. Players from both teams quickly gathered in the area and Nate Robinson appeared to take a swing at Smith, who tackled Robinson, sending both players tumbling into the fans' seats on the baseline. Just when it seemed that order had been restored, Carmelo Anthony punched Collins in the face, Jared Jeffries ran after Anthony and more chaos ensued as coaches, officials and security personnel tried to break up fighting between multiple players.

The officials ejected all 10 players who were in the game at the time the fight began--Nate Robinson, Mardy Collins, Jared Jeffries, David Lee and Channing Frye of the Knicks and Andre Miller, J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera of the Nuggets. ESPN's Kiki Vandeweghe, a former All-Star, later commented that he had never seen that happen before. You may also notice that the Nuggets still had several starters in the game at the time this transpired, while the Knicks had emptied their bench. That fact certainly did not escape the attention of Knicks' Coach Isiah Thomas, who recounted after the game what he told Anthony in the wake of the altercation: "I just said to him, 'You know, you're up 20, you're up 19 with a minute and half to go, you and (Marcus) Camby really shouldn't be in the game right now. We had surrendered, those guys shouldn't even be in the game at that point in time."

This kind of melee is exactly the kind of conduct that Commissioner David Stern is trying to eliminate from the game, so expect him to swiftly issue lengthy suspensions to the players he deems to be most responsible for this fiasco. Anthony, Collins, Smith and Robinson will all likely be missing substantial playing time. Stern was 100% correct in the way that he responded to the Pistons-Pacers brawl (November 19, 2004) and he indicated at that time that if something like that ever happened again the punishments would be severe. The NBA simply cannot tolerate fighting among players, particularly when it spills into the stands and endangers fans. Of course, the video of this will be replayed endlessly, so this is a public relations disaster as well, but that aspect pales in importance compared to the safety issues.

ESPN was on top of the story, prominently covering it on SportsCenter and NBA Fastbreak, but NBA TV all but ignored what happened. Dei Lynam mentioned it once in passing but highlights of the game were not shown until much later. Even then, the commentators ignored the fight and talked about the game's implication in the standings. I understand that the league runs NBA TV and wants to put a positive spin on things but, hello, 10 players were ejected and the fight spilled into the stands--you cannot just brush over this like it didn't happen.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:50 PM

20 comments

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20 Comments:

At Sunday, December 17, 2006 12:40:00 AM, Blogger "rem" said...

why do pro athletes have so little respect for each other is the bigger question

it's a shame

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:07:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Ah David what a damn shame.
Carmelo running back and throwing punches. He needs and will probably get 15 to 20. Napoleon complexed Nate will get 5 to 10. What the hell was Jeffries doing?

It was a hard foul but come on. And why was Melo and Camby in the game. Maybe Karl was trying to rub it in for what Isiah did to Larry Brown.

Ironically Mike Breen was at this game and the Malice at the Palace. I wonder what he had to say. These young black athletes want false respect. Respect is earn and you dont earn it by talking noise and fightning. This is one of the reasons why the NBA is a joke.
And you cant trust NBATV.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:11:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Now Melo and Camby shouldnt have been in the game. But he shouldnt have went to Melo and told him that. Thats not his business.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Rem:

That is an excellent question; I do not have a good answer.

Illest: I think it will be 10 games at least for Carmelo and 15-20 would not surprise me at all. Jeffries was incensed because he felt that Melo suckerpunched Collins.

I agree that the starters should not have been in and that it is not Isiah's business to say that to Melo.

When I interviewed Dr. J, he talked about sitting out at the end of games that were blowouts. He feels very strongly that it is crass for stars to stay in games to pad their statistics once the outcome has been decided. He added that the bench players work hard in practice and deserve a chance to play, too. That actually ties back in to our other thread about Doc's ABA stats versus his NBA stats. Doc never stayed in games to pad his numbers. There were occasions when Jackson let MJ stay in long enough to get his 30-32 (or reasonably close to it) before he sat him down--particularly when MJ was young.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 1:44:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

That was more Collins though. If you go to wfan.com they are talking about it all night. Fans who were at the game......Stern is going to a field day with this.

On a football note, Owens spit in DeAngelo Halls face. What a disgrace Owens is.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I'm not sure which comment you are referring to when you said "that was more Collins." Collins did the flagrant foul and after the initial skirmish settled down Melo suckerpunched him, which is what got Jeffries going.

I'm not a big fan of listening to sports talk radio, particularly the fan call-in shows; different strokes for different folks.

I saw on SportsCenter that TO admitted to spitting in Hall's face. That, of course, is indefensible. I'm curious what the response to this will be--by the league, the media and fans--compared to the response when Bill Romanowski did the same thing. Barkley had his own spitting incident but saved his name by apologizing to the little girl he inadvertently hit while he was aiming at a heckler. Owens had a great game and the Cowboys are in first place but that will all be on the backburner now. Has anyone noticed that the Eagles were not very good this year without Owens and that the Cowboys will probably win the division with him? It's not just McNabb's injury, either, because the Eagles are actually doing better with Garcia than they were with McNabb. Owens is an impact player but this spitting incident will be a permanent mark against him.

Was there a full moon tonight or something? First the brawl, then the spitting (or maybe the spitting came first, but it was only reported later)

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:14:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

I meant with Jordan and scoring to pad stats. Its just opinions... you know that. Arent you on the radio from time to time? When are you on?

Isiah is such a joke and a disgrace. He said his team surrendered. What the hell is that?

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Oh, DOUG Collins. I was thinking of Mardy Collins and the fight. Yeah, Doug Collins definitely catered to MJ in the early years--and he still got fired. Remember the postgame press conference when Collins described the play that won a playoff game as "Give the ball to MJ and get the ---- out of the way"? Jordan was sitting on the stage next to Collins and got a good laugh out of that one.

Yeah, I appear on BetUS.com radio once a week (Tuesday at 3:05). Still, I'm not a big fan of sportstalk radio overall, particularly the shows that are dominated by calls from fans. I spend a lot of time talking to players and coaches about what's going on in games (or what happened in historical games) and the level of discourse that is typical of sportstalk radio does not quite match that. When I'm on the air I try to provide substance and insight as opposed to simply shouting that player x is great and player y is a bum. I'd rather talk about what player x does well and what player y could do better.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 2:31:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

O ok Ill have to listen. Isiah should be fired ASAP. I know it wont happen but he should.

I remember that press conference.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 4:43:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

It's a shame that the brawl happened, and Isiah Thomas was out of place telling the Nuggets whether or not they should have been in the game.

HOWEVER, I think anyone calling for Isiah to face any sort of fine or punishment is way out of line, even if he did order a hard foul from the bench. Why? Because it has been done all the time in basketball in attempts to rally the team.

Basketball is a game where pride and emotion are big factors. Sometimes you have to draw the line when another team is walking all over you for the good of your team's morale and spirit. Think about Kevin McHale's clotheslining of Kurt Rambis in 1984, or Maurice Lucas's sucker-punching Darryl Dawkins in 1977. These were both lowly moves which technically have no place in basketball. Yet people always celebrate moments like these (especially the McHale incident) because it "rallied the troops", so to speak. I think the Collins foul was similar in spirit. In this day where public relations and image are of utmost importance, however, the Collins foul won't be afforded similar understanding.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 6:03:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sunday, December 17, 2006 7:57:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I understand that the game wasn't in the finals, but the Knicks are desperate. If such a move would in some way stop the team and the fans from being as apathetic as they have been, and spark the team to go on some sort of winning streak, it would be huge.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 3:16:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Illest: I appreciate your passion about the Knicks and basketball in general but there are certain areas I don't want this site to venture into in terms of language and content. I suspect that you cited the term N-----bockers because that was a description applied to a moribund Knicks team of an earlier era but that is a word that I don't want to have associated with this site. That is why I deleted your previous comment. Feel free to repost the rest of the comment, minus the word in question.

As for your main point in that comment--that Isiah Thomas should be suspended or even fired for allegedly ordering the hard foul to be committed--I think that we need to let the investigation run its course and find out who said what to whom--and in what context--before we make hasty conclusions. Steven A. Smith reported that Thomas' words to Anthony could be interpreted as a warning that a hard foul was about to be delivered or they could be interpreted to mean that with a 20 point lead the Nuggets should not be going in the paint and throwing down showboating dunks. Smith said that if it were the former then Isiah should be punished but if it were the latter than he shouldn't be punished.

Vednam, I think that there is a difference between a hard foul and a cheap shot. What Collins did was a cheap shot. Even though what McHale did was much lauded in some quarters, clotheslining a guy in mid-air is a cheap shot. Those Celtics teams were very rough, so I have to laugh when people act like the Pistons invented physical basketball; they learned it from the Celtics and needed to master it to beat them. Stern has cleaned up this nonsense--or at least greatly minimized it--by instituting flagrant foul rules and suspending guys who get out of line. The punishments that he issues in the wake of the latest melee will be the next step in settling this down. It's not like this happens every day in the NBA; the Pacers-Pistons fight was two years ago.

Hard fouls are fine and are part of the game, but clotheslining a guy like McHale did or grabbing a guy by the neck and throwing him down like Collins did is just dirty play.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 8:14:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Oh, I certainly agree that the Collins foul was a cheap shot (as well as the McHale foul). I guess what I'm trying to say though is that coaches and players have been using cheap shots for decades as a strategy to change the momentum and morale of their team.

Is it right? Not in my opinion. However, I think it is rather hypocritical that people ignore the fact that this has been going on forever and over react by calling this a "new low" for the NBA, and acting like Isiah Thomas is the only coach who (may) have ordered a hard foul, when many of the great coaches, from Auerbach to Riley, have done so. I don't want to hear Bill Walton, for example, complaining about how unclassy the Collins foul was when he always goes on about what a great play McHale's clotheslining of Rambis was.

If anything, I think the NBA has been cleaner in recent years (even before the Palace brawl) than it was in previous decades. The only difference is the visibility of the league and growing concern about the NBA's image.

Good point about the 80s Celtics being a rough team. People always overlook that, or try to pass it off as being "hard working" or "blue collar", as Pat Riley always pointed out.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 9:13:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

I respect your blog so I wont use that or other negative words. I dont care what Smith says, Isiah should be gone. As a lifelong Knicks fan, they have hit the bottom. He is a joke. Of course he is going no where, but I feel he should be gone. I saw the clip of what Isiah said. He said,"Dont go in the paint. It wont be nice." Isiah........you dont play anymore. You know Stern wont like that. He is going to lay the hammer and he should.
Stern realized that he made a mistake with the ball (The Godfather doesnt make to many) so he will definitely let out major suspensions.

Those Celtics were a rough team and a fast breaking team. People always think East Coast basketball was slow and methodic. Walton wasnt even on that team to care about that play.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 9:42:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Walton may not have been on the Celtics in 1984, but he HAS praised McHale's foul many times as a "turning point" in the series. Having played with most of the 1984 Celtics in 1986, he probably feels close to that team

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 11:00:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Yeah you are right he probably does feel close to them.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 12:55:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

The sentences have been handed out: Anthony 15 games, Nate and JR Smith 10 games, Collins 6 games, Jeffries 4 games

Each team fined $500,000

Has anyone heard George Karl speak? Because I havent heard or seen anything.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 4:42:00 PM, Blogger radar said...

Stern is a joke, Zeke gets away with murder and gets zip/nada and coaches now know they can order "hits' on opposing stars without repercussions. Welcome to the new THUG NBA thanks to the idiot Sterns and the punk Thomas.

 
At Monday, December 18, 2006 11:13:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Radar-

Flagrant fouling isn't a "new" development in the NBA, and Isiah Thomas isn't the first coach to order a hard foul. In fact, as far as I know, no coach has ever been punished for ordering a hard foul, or anything of that nature. So Isiah didn't "get away with murder". He got away with the same things as coaches past.

 

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