Simply the best (cont.)
Posted: Monday March 26, 2007 3:40PM; Updated: Tuesday March 27, 2007 11:39AM
5. Why don't we see more fistfights and brawls in the league?
ANSWER: The NBA is working to stamp out fighting because it puts players and fans at risk, obviously, but also because the scenes of players throwing punches is toxic to the league's image.
Players union chief Billy Hunter has an interesting perspective. He thinks when hockey players slug it out and leave blood on the ice, audiences tend to laugh it off as if it were a scene from pro wrestling. But when Carmelo Anthony lands a weak punch on Mardy Collins, he sees it replayed on TV endlessly like a helicopter closeup of the L.A. riots.
"They're hitting each other with sticks in hockey," says Hunter, who is African-American. "But they receive benign treatment: It's OK. If that happened in the NBA, they would shut the league down if somebody had a stick and he was hitting somebody with it. They would outlaw the game.
"But when it happens in hockey, people sit there and enjoy it. It's promoted by the media, it's a great, cool thing."
6. Is too much made of the competition to be the No. 1 pick in the draft?
ANSWER: Joe Smith doesn't think so.
He was the No. 1 pick of the Warriors in the 1995 draft, and at times the honor must have felt like a burden. The 6-foot-10 forward never produced more than the 18.7 points per game he averaged in his second season at Golden State, which unloaded him the following year with Brian Shaw for Jim Jackson and Clarence Weatherspoon.
"It doesn't necessarily say that you were the best player in college that year," says Smith, 31, who returned to Philadelphia in December as part of the Allen Iverson trade package from Denver. "But it is an honor to know that a team feels you can fulfill their needs and pick you with that first overall pick. That's a big honor for any athlete."
Smith has moved eight times during his 12-year career, averaging 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. Eventually, he learned to focus on his team-minded strengths while tuning out criticisms that he was a No. 1 bust. But it also says something about his value that the Timberwolves earned huge penalties by offering him an under-the-table $86 million contract in 1999. "You hear different things on the road (from fans) about being the No. 1 pick and not living up to expectations," he says. "But as soon as I get moved to a team or traded to a city, then everybody appreciates what I can do."
Smith says he wants to keep playing "until the wheels come off," and he remains proud of being a former No. 1. "There are times that you think about everybody else's expectations and not yours," he says. "Some people get out of character on the court and try to live up to those expectations of others. I chose the other route, to go out and give what I can give and not try to do anything out of character out there.
"Every career has its ups and downs, and overall I think mine has been pretty good. Every team I've been on, I've had different roles. I think I've fulfilled those roles to the fullest."
7. Is Ron Artest serious about retiring?
ANSWER: Taking time off from the NBA worked out well for Michael Jordan, so why not for him?
Unfortunately for Artest, he's fast becoming a poor man's Dennis Rodman -- without the championship jewelry.