Posted: Sunday December 17, 2006 12:18AM; Updated: Sunday December 17, 2006 12:59AM
Embarrassment. Truly an embarrassment.
In the past two years, the NBA has gone to great lengths to clean up the thug image that permeated the league in the aftermath of the ugly brawl in Detroit. To its credit, the league has enjoyed remarkable success following arguably the worst moment in its history. They have replaced the images of player-on-fan violence that were burned in our memories with positive ones. Even Ron Artest, the principal antagonist in that disaster, has seemingly been rehabilitated.
Now we have this. Fresh visuals. Just what David Stern was hoping for.
What a joke. I understand protecting your teammates; it's an unwritten code in all of sports that you defend your own. That's what Stephen Jackson thought he was doing. Look at how well that worked out for him. There is protecting and then there is being stupid. Saturday night was a model of stupidity.
Stern needs to come down with an iron fist on this one. For Mardy Collins (whose flagrant foul, while deserved, could have been a lot worse) gets five games. Nate Robinson, whose immaturity rivals that of most teenagers, gets 15. J.R. Smith, Nate's partner in the playpen, gets the same. Carmelo Anthony, the NBA's scoring leader and whose name will be associated with this night for the rest of his career, gets 30. Too much? Jermaine O'Neal got that and he hit a fan charging the floor. 'Melo just poured fuel on the fire. And if Isiah Thomas even insinuated any member of the Knicks should take matters into their own hands, well, Stern should come down on him too. Hey, it's just another shovel full of dirt on his grave anyways.
There is no middle ground here, no justifying these juvenile actions. You want to know why parents don't bring their kids to games? See how that brawl spilled into the first row? Maybe because parents think there is a danger of an errant fist winding up in their kids face. You want to make things better? Put the league on notice, let everyone know that no deed goes unpunished. Make the price of violence so heavy no one wants to pay it. Only then will you see real results.