The NBA's Draconian new law-enforcement regime had its best game of the playoffs Wednesday, with two Golden State Warriors getting ejected in the second half of their Game 2 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson each got the thumb in the second half of a game eventually won by the Mavericks 112-99 to even the first-round series at 1-1. The Mavericks were probably going to win anyway. Davis, so good in Game 1, wasn't having a big night. Jackson was, but by the time he got tossed, the Mavericks were up by 15 with less than five minutes to go.
And by that time the Warriors didn't have Davis, of course, who was run by referee Bennett Salvatore for smiling and clapping after a foul was called on him at the end of the third quarter.
That's the same Bennett Salvatore, by the way, whom Mavericks fans consider an enemy after he repeatedly sent Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat to the free-throw line in last year's Finals. Salvatore's one of those guys who make me wonder if my running joke about foul calls in basketball being essentially random isn't so much of a joke after all. And he has a tendency to insert himself into the drama of playoff games.
Davis was given his second technical foul -- an automatic ejection -- for allegedly showing up Salvatore and his fellow refs with his actions. Davis later said that's not what he was doing, and that wasn't how it looked out here in America, where we're allowed to criticize authority figures without fear of swift and severe punishment anyway.
That's not how the NBA rolls.
Davis' clapping bit didn't look like a sarcastic or condescending gesture toward the refs. It looked more like he was saying, "OK, that sucked but I'm moving on here. Chin up. Best foot forward. Tally-ho."
In so many words.
Salvatore: "To the dungeon with you! Next stop, reeducation camp!"
In so many words.
Davis was marched off by a director of security type, sort of pathetically asking the fellow, complete with illustrative applause, "I can't clap my hands?"
Davis already had a technical foul on his rap sheet because of an incident earlier in the quarter in which technical fouls were falling like rain. Jason Terry of the Mavs had just dribbled into the frontcourt when he was fouled on a reach-in by Jackson. Terry kept dribbling, and both Davis and Matt Barnes took swipes at the ball.
Terry and teammate DeSagana Diop, who happened to be nearby, took exception to those post-whistle swats and bellied up to Davis and Barnes, who were standing next to each other. Devin Harris of the Mavericks, who had been a ways off, rushed up and joined the scrum.
So these five guys are kind of chest bumping in that way guys do when tempers flare in the heat of competition when Jackson, who had been wandering around with his hand in the air, acknowledging his own foul, notices what's up and also rushes over, mostly to try to break up the scrum. The whole thing lasts for about two seconds before the refs pull Terry away and break it up, and that's it. No punches thrown, minimal shoving.
A stern -- pardon the pun -- warning probably would have sufficed here, even under the new jackboot regime. At most, maybe a pair of offsetting technicals, one for either Terry, Diop or Harris, one for either Davis or Barnes. Just to send the message that the refs weren't going to let this game get out of hand.
What Jackson did to earn his extra technical is a mystery. He was essentially ticketed for Driving While Being Stephen Jackson.
This became an issue when he was T'd up again late in the game. His protests that time didn't look too severe either, but maybe he said some magic word. He then proceeded to justify the ejection, and possibly earn himself a suspension, by throwing a tantrum and taking forever to leave the court, cursing the refs the whole time.
Can't do that. Can't let the gummint, I mean the NBA main office, hear or see you complaining about the officiating. Dissent must be snuffed out!
Hey, look. I was getting as annoyed with the players' constant whining about every foul call as everybody else was before this year's crackdown. But there must be a happy medium between that and the current despotism.
I'm not trying to make this a free-speech issue, and I'm all for a certain level of etiquette and decorum in a game. But it's hard to be comfortable watching a sport in which the players have no right even to simple emotional reactions to in-the-moment events. It's weirdly, unnecessarily oppressive. Even NFL players can react to calls, and you know what NFL stands for.
Ease up, NBA. The players are not your enemy.
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Ned Yost: Bulletin boards are bunk [PERMALINK]
Over the weekend Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano modestly explained away a solid outing against the Milwaukee Brewers that followed a rough one against the Cincinnati Reds by saying the Brewers don't have a very strong lineup.
"In Cincinnati, they're better hitters than in Milwaukee," he said. "I don't say that the Milwaukee Brewers are nothing, but the offense of the Cincinnati Reds is better."
Let's just put aside that, so far, 21 games into the season, this isn't true. The Brewers are averaging 4.9 runs per game with an OPS of .795, the Reds 4.1 runs per game with an OPS of .688. And that's before taking into account that the Reds play in a bandbox. Also, if you look at the esoteric stat ... Never mind. It doesn't matter.
The comments were predictably labeled "bulletin-board material," and the Brewers promptly warned Zambrano to watch his tongue.
"The guy's a good pitcher, no doubt," said outfielder Geoff Jenkins. "But you need to watch what you say about other teams because you definitely don't earn respect by doing that."
Because if you say nasty things about our team, we're going to try really hard to beat you. Otherwise, we don't try so hard.
If Jenkins was just talking about respect, as in, "We, the Milwaukee Brewers, do not respect you, sir." Well, I think Zambrano will live, don't you? So he doesn't get invited to the postseason picnic. He'll be busy hanging out with the Reds, who presumably respect the snot out of him.
During a rain delay before Wednesday's game in Chicago, Brewers TV announcer Brian Anderson asked manager Ned Yost what it means to him that his players were talking about Zambrano's comments and taking inspiration from them.
"It doesn't really mean much to me," Yost said. "They've got to go out and make something happen against Zambrano. If that was the case and that actually worked, you know, I'd make up things about the opposing team, say that they said it and put it up. You're a professional player and it doesn't matter what anybody says about you. You've got to go out and do your own job. You've got to go out and make your keep every day as a player."
The idea that professional athletes are, you know, professionals, and not middle-school kids, is one you don't hear from too many people in the sports world.
Of course if you talk smack about the Brewers they're going to take note and get chippy about it. But that doesn't make them play better. It just passes the time of day, builds a little camaraderie. It might make for a more harmonious clubhouse, but it doesn't lead to a single run against Carlos Zambrano or anybody else.
Yost is treading on dangerous ground here. Doesn't he know anything about team chemistry?
Previous column: Suns, Bulls beatdowns
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