Monday, December 18, 2006

Idle threat of the week

The panel of judges is known to appreciate a good sport's fight. Basketball brawls always move to the top of the list because basketball players -- who don't hide behind helmets or caps or race cars -- are our most recognizable athletes. When the b-ballers go at it, it's like you're back in high school witnessing a three o'clock showdown.

When we got together yesterday we discussed our favorite basketball fights: Dr. J pounding on Larry Bird as a young Charles Barkley held Bird back, an older Charles Barkley rolling around on the court with comic book villain Bill Laimbeer and, of course, everybody's personal favorite of Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning matching frenzied combinations as the middle-aged and balding coach Jeff Van Gundy held on for dear life.

All those fights were battles between big game players in big games. They were quick explosions of raw, unpracticed emotion. The punchs thrown were just as likely to break the puncher's hand or separate his shoulder as they were to do damage to the intended target.

And then there was what
went on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.

In a pathetic display of premeditation and posturing the centerpiece of this pointless, rambling brawl was the technically sound sucker punch Denver Nugget and NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony landed on Mardy Collins, who had instigated the brawl with a hard, illegal foul on Anthony's teammate JR Smith.

Not only was Collins fully restrained when Anthony landed the punch -- a good twenty seconds after the initial foul -- but Anthony began backing away immediately after the punch landed. To make matters worse, the Knick player who pursued Anthony after he started to back peddle was Jared Jeffries, arguably the skinniest player in the league.

So you have Anthony, who has always presented himself as a "from the streets" tough guy, punching a defenseless man and then fleeing from a stick figure -- not his proudest moment.

In another unfortunate twist the main escalator of the brawl was Nate Robinson. Most suspect the 5'6 guard jumped in not for love his teammates, but for the Napoleonic issues he tends to work out publicly -- previously with foolish attempts at dunks.

The NBA's two decade long slide from substance to style has been well-documented. It now appears the once hallowed basketbrawl has also fallen victim to this transformation.

Anytime grown men put up their dukes without a chance of serious injury you are witnessing the definition of an idle threat.

For that we can award the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks the Idle Threat of the Week for December 11-17. It is certainly the highest accolade the Knicks will garner this season.

Bonus Video: The NBA's top ten fights. (This was before the '04 brawl in Auburn Hills)

Update: 15 games for Anthony seems harsh. Ten for JR Smith seems unfair -- especially with Nate Robinson getting the same ten. Not content just to ruin the Knicks season it looks like Isiah Thomas' sore-loser thugishness has ruined the Nuggets' season too. The man is incorrigible.

Update 2: Bill Simmons thinks Isiah wasn't suspended because that makes it harder for Dolan to fire him (you probably can't fire or trade -- for that who's getting Iverson matter -- a suspended player or coach.) That's the best explanation for why-in-the-world-wasn't-Isiah suspended that I've heard.

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