Category Archives: Basketball

Tossing the Game

As I’m sure you’ve realized from the Amazon-like river of posts about basketball, we, the member of the Curious Mechanism, are huge fans. 

Okay, maybe not, but I think we’ve all got a cursory sort of interest in it.  We watch plenty of college ball, and a fair amount of NBA games, with a bit more interest in playoffs.  Oh, and there is a writer or two among us who loves the NBA Draft the way most people love Christmas.  Regardless, though I didn’t see it happen live, I’ve seen the replay of the Robert Horry hip-check on Steve Nash, and the subsequent suspensions of Horry (Games 5 and 6) as well as Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw (Game 5 for both). 

Naturally, a lot of people are pretty disgruntled about how the Suns are losing two of their key players for a pivotal game, while the Spurs–who have been accused of dirty play throughout the series–are only losing an ancillary player, a backup, in Horry. 

Some bloggers and message board scribes are advocating some kind of unofficial protest from Phoenix.  The two suggestions I’ve seen most frequently bandied about are the following:

1) Hit someone back.  Start a scrub, and have him plow Tim Duncan or Mr. Eva Longoria. 

2) Throw the game ostentatiously.  I forget who was advocating for this most heartily, but the base sentiment was that, every-time they touch the ball, Phoenix should just toss it away into the stands. 

I understand the desire for #1.  The Suns definitely seem to be getting the short end of the stick, here.  Their premier player gets clobbered, and they suffer the worse of the suspensions.  A little vengeance would seem in order, even if I’m not inclined to advocate for it.  Plus, if the referees believe that the hit was premeditated, I can’t imagine they’d allow coach Mike D’Antoni to stay there to coach.  With a depleted bench, in a tough and tight series, the Suns need all the help their coach can give them.

#2, however, I have to say, “No, no, no!”  Game 5 is in Phoenix.  That’s your home team.  They paid a lot of money to see you play hard and win basketball games.  If this was a game in San Antonio, I could actually see this.  If their team doesn’t want to play clean, then their fans don’t get the benefit of a good game.  But in front of your own fans, your home crowd, you don’t do that. 

The only thing to really do–the thing I expect the Suns to attempt–is just to beat the Spurs, decisively, in Game 5.  Nothing says “fuck you,” like David whipping Goliath.  Take the 3 games to 2 lead, then bring back the big guns. 

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Same Event, Different Decisions, Same Outcome

Ron Artest was arrested on Monday for domestic abuse.  Upon hearing of the charges, the Sacramento Kings excused Artest indefinitely for his actions.  Dan LeBatard, a columnist for the Miami Herald,  said on Pardon the Interruption on Tuesday, that “an arrest isn’t a conviction,” and that the Kings were acting prematurely.  This position seems, well, absurd. 

Last June, Phillies’ pitcher Brett Myers was also arrested for striking his wife.  The team did not immediately suspend Myers and the universal opinion was that this was a Bad, Bad Thing-to-Do.  Myers, unlike Artest, has no history of any sort of trouble.  No arrests, no incidents, nothing, prior to that.  Now, Myers, one of the better starting pitchers in the National League, and yet his signing a three year deal was met with comments like, “And punching your wife’s face can earn you 3 years and 25 million dollars with the Philadelphia Phillies.” 

There’s no doubt in our minds that the Phillies screwed up last summer.  Myers should have been excused from team activities instantly.  What isn’t getting half as much press as the original incident, is that Myers has been going to counseling, has worked on his temper.  If his weight loss is any indicator, he’s probably cut back on his drinking, as well.  We’re not saying the incident should be forgotten, but let’s the give the guy a chance to get past it, eh? 

As for Artest, is anyone surprised about the latest arrest?  The Kings are doing the right thing in suspending him.  There’s no doubt in our minds, and that Dan LeBatard doesn’t see that is mind boggling. 

We’ll try to stick to baseball issues in our baseball posts, in the future. 

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Best of Luck

Today, ESPN’s Bill Simmons wrote a surprisingly good piece about the Allen Iverson situation in Philadelphia.  It would appear that Simmons hasn’t completely lost his once-formidable writerly chops, and if his editors could keep him from mailbags and the inanities of Boston sports, perhaps he would find a personal renaissance.  Regardless, Simmons topic was A.I., seasoned with the Celtics, but A.I. nonetheless, and since the Curious Mechanism has a backlog of Things-to-Write, we might as well address something our local papers are obligated to write about constantly, even as nothing has been happening. 

First, an anecdote from Simmons’ blog column:

There’s another aspect to Iverson’s brilliance, something the ESPN guys tried to describe last night: Quite simply, he’s the most menacing player in the league. There’s just something different about him, a darker edge that the other stars don’t have. Once I was sitting midcourt at the Fleet Center when Iverson was whistled for a technical, yelped in disbelief, then followed the referee toward the scorer’s table and screamed, “[Bleep] you!” at the top of his lungs. The official whirled around and pulled his whistle toward his mouth for a second technical.

And I swear on my daughter’s life, the following moment happened: As the official started to blow the whistle, Iverson’s eyes widened and he moved angrily toward the official, almost like someone getting written up for a parking ticket who decides it would just be easier to punch out the meter maid. For a split-second, there was real violence in the air. Of course, the rattled official lowered his whistle and never called the second T. By sheer force of personality, Iverson kept himself in the game.

This is something we have always loved about Iverson.  He is, perhaps, as competitive as any American athlete today.  Off the court, he is distinctly honest, direct, and intelligent.  He uses enough slang and dispenses enough grammatical disasters to come off as unintelligent and ignorant to an older generation of basketball fans.  For those who are willing to tolerate his lack of traditional eloquence, he’s thoughtful, soft-spoken, and intelligent.  Over the summer, as trade rumors flew, Iverson participated in an event where, for at least an hour, on live television, fans from an audience were allowed to ask him questions, directly.  About his time with the Sixers, about feuds with various coaches and players, and about all the trade speculation that was occuring.  He answered them all as best he could, reiterated that he still wanted to be a Sixer, that he wanted to retire as a Sixer.  We recall remarking amongst ourselves at the time, “If Billy King trades Iverson, he better get something back for him, and he better send him somewhere worthwhile.”  After all, this was a player who had busted his ass for his team (literally, in the 2001 playoffs) for years, who always wore his emotions on his sleeved, who never bothered with cliches or hackneyed apologies for outrageous behavior.  As much as Iverson came off like a thug, only once did he get in trouble with the police in Philadelphia, on a charge so ludicrous that the city collectively laughed it off before it was quickly dropped.  He was different from most NBA players–too small, too different, too well behaved.  He embodied Philadelphia.  Certainly, the city was often divided regarding their opinions on Iverson–he wasn’t universally adored here, but it’s easy to say a majority loved his play. 

And yet, despite this good off-court behavior, and great on-court play, from the Sixers organization he has faced nothing but criticism over an 11 year career.  Whether about his dress, his attitude, his practice habits, his attendance–there was always something wrong with Allen Iverson.  We believe Iverson wanted to remain a Sixer.  We also believe president Ed Snider’s buffoonery and GM Billy King’s incompetence have forced Iverson out.  He is an ultra-competitor playing for a team that cannot win, going home to hear his bosses complaining about everything he does.  There’s no reason for him to stay, and we can’t expect him to stay for the fans, when the fans have ceased showing up on a nightly basis to watch his spectacular brand of play. 

So, with no other option, we watch in rapture as the rumors pile and the trade scenarios develop and we hope the stars align to send Iverson to Minnesota.  We’ve heard they have no interest, even though their best player has a lot of interest.  We’ve also heard they don’t have “enough” to offer the Sixers, but, as a fan, we’d be satisfied with a 1st round pick (understood that next year can’t happen, but how about 2008?), Randy Foye, and some contract they don’t want?  How about that? 

We want the Sixers to win, obviously, but if Allen can’t retire a Sixer, we’d at least like him to retire a winner. 

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