Weekly Countdown (cont.)
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4 Questions rescued from the spam
Please address Joakim Noah's disparaging remarks toward Cleveland in this series. I realize trash-talking is part of the game and Noah is just trying to fire himself and his team up, or whatever, and is probably just goofing around. And Clevelanders have developed fairly thick skins over the years. But doesn't the league office have an opinion about a guy trashing an entire city that has been pretty good to the NBA through fan support in recent years?
I can't imagine the league fining Noah for exercising his freedom of speech, just like the league won't discourage you from trying to boo him out of the building. Don't you wish players would speak as freely as Noah? Every series needs its villain, and you have to give Noah credit for coming up with his best performance (25 points and 13 rebounds in Game 2) after exposing himself. I'm also pretty sure you Cavs fans are going to have the last laugh in this case.
Do you think it's fair that Kevin Garnett got only a one-game suspension for intentionally elbowing Quentin Richardson when, a few years ago, Boris Diaw and Amar'e Stoudemire got suspended one game for just barely moving out of their boundaries off the bench as an instinct reaction to protect Steve Nash after he got clocked by Robert Horry?
All of these rules are meant to snuff out fights before they can start. Those Phoenix suspensions reminded players once and for all to stay on the bench when trouble starts on the court. Likewise, the ruling on Garnett is designed to punish an elbow to the head as if Garnett had delivered an actual punch -- the "victim" shouldn't feel any need to retaliate knowing that the NBA will punish the aggressor severely and swiftly. So while Stoudemire's offense may appear gentle compared to Garnett's, both rulings are concerned mainly with the potential aftermath.
While we're talking about these kinds of fines, I want to bring up Stern's threat Thursday night to severely punish coaches and players who criticize referees. "It would be whatever a day's pay is and then two day's pay and then a week's pay," Stern told reporters in Oklahoma City. "And if someone wants to try me in the rest of these playoffs, make my day. Because the game is too important, and I don't think people who trash it are respecting it."
I understand Stern's view that coaches are damaging their own product by questioning the integrity of the officials and the NBA, but I'm sure he also understands the frustrations of the coaches and players are based in part on their view of refereeing as a murky and mysterious area of the game. Some of their criticisms of the referees are spun cynically in hopes of gaining advantage in the next game, but other criticisms are sincere.
While Donaghy adamantly denied fixing games -- which you can choose to believe or not -- many of his disparagements of NBA officiating rang true. Instead of (or in addition to) punishing coaches and players for venting their sincere frustrations, wouldn't the league be better served by showing in a transparent way how referees do their jobs and how the league office manages those referees on a daily basis?
I am 100 percent certain that public scrutiny of the NBA's officiating department would lead to improvements, as the league would be held accountable for its practices and be forced to consider the insight and suggestions of Phil Jackson and others. At the same time, Jackson and his fellow critics might be less inclined to condemn if they were better able to understand things from the referees' point of view. At this highly sensitive moment, too many players and coaches and fans -- as well as people like me -- are still wondering if the NBA has responded in meaningful ways to the core problems of impartiality and accountability that were unearthed by the Donaghy scandal.
Isn't today's news that the salary cap is expected to come in around $56.1 million really bad news for Cavs fans? It is well-established that a team needs at least two star players to win an NBA championship. Cleveland does not have that second star -- Shaq is too old; Mo Williams is a good, not great player; Antawn Jamison is the same. Plus, the Cavs are getting older (Jamison will soon be 34) and they have no cap room or assets to get that second star. Compare that to the Knicks' situation, particularly now that the cap has increased. The Knicks can provide LeBron with that second star of his choosing (Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay, Dwyane Wade) or three or four excellent players if he wants to go that route instead. The supporting cast in Cleveland is completely overrated, but the real trouble is the Cavs are over the cap for the foreseeable future and they don't have the room or the assets to get better.
You just recited the Knicks' pitch, Lenny. Maybe they should hire you.
If LeBron sees it your way, then Cleveland is in trouble. But the truth is he knows more about the long-term potential of his own franchise than anybody. I'm guessing he also has learned the hard way just how long it takes to build an NBA championship team from scratch, and that it's not just about talent but also girding the players to alter their games to the needs of the team, especially at the defensive end.
There is no chicken-and-egg argument to this. Winning has to come first for him. The real power and money won't come until he wins multiple championships. He needs to win in the biggest way, and where is that most likely to happen?
How can people reasonably question the Lakers when they're 2-0 in the first round against the Thunder, with Kobe dropping 39 points in the second victory?
It's important to know that Bryan sent this before the Lakers lost Game 3 on Thursday at Oklahoma City. But there was reason to question them even before that loss. They needed all of Kobe Bryant's 39 to maintain home-court advantage against the league's youngest team. They are the older and wiser team, and yet they've been unable to execute at a high level against a team of postseason virgins.
By comparison, the Cavaliers aren't dealing with as many questions, though possibly as much criticism. Chicago has given them a tough time over the last couple of games, but I envision the Cavs responding and improving over their first-round series because that has been their trend throughout this season. The Lakers are a different story. They're still the favorites in the West, without a doubt, but I think they're going to face more of a struggle.
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