By Austin Kent
Starting this season, the NBA has taken it upon itself to cut down the amount of time players spend cursing, crying and throwing tantrums when they don’t get their way. The already abhorred officials now have the power to hand out technicals like cheap smokes at a bus station. What I don’t understand is how in these last few weeks, these heightened player expectations have been met with pure disgust and resentment from both players and fans alike.
The announcement was made before training camp in October and since then players have been getting themselves canned left, right and center. Both Carmelo Anthony and Mike Bibby managed to whine their way to the locker room in their respective debuts, while the usual culprits have been their usual selves. Rasheed Wallace managed to rack up two more techs than he did points in the Detroit Pistons’ season opening loss, and is tied for the lead with four just two weeks into the season. The jury is still out on whether any of those accomplishments are more impressive than Chris Wilcox getting ejected from a scrimmage in Seattle’s practice facility before the season even began.
With all of these big name players being forced to leave prematurely, it begs the question is this new zero tolerance policy too strict? The answer, in a nutshell, is absolutely not. What I would like to know is when it became tolerable, let alone encouraged, to watch fully grown professionals refuse to acknowledge they’ve ever committed a foul. On top of that, what’s even worse than watching players like Rasheed sully their credibility is that this victim mentality is contagious and, in the case of the Detroit Pistons, has clearly spread to some of the younger players, most notably Tayshaun Prince. Don’t let the lack of flair fool you, just last year the one time “silent” assassin could be seen regularly storming up to the officials in protest, like a near seven foot child begging his mom for a puppy.
Online petitions have popped up since the season began, citing a loss of emotion as the primary reason to revert back to the way it used to be. If self proclaimed “fans” of the game of basketball can not appreciate the intensity and passion in a game where players defend their net instead of their actions then I’m afraid there’s nothing that anybody can do, including the league. These unfortunately tend to be the same people who watch hockey for the fights, and used to cry whenever they lost in a video game.
The policy speeds up the game, and makes player’s accountable for their mistakes. The NBA has waited for this time, and with the current crop of talent (and infinite marketing potential) is finally beginning to re-mature in the post Michael Jordan era. Now I will never defend the decision to ban tights, arm bands or sleeves, but to assume that asking these multi-millionaires to keep their tempers in check will have any ill effect on the identity of league, just goes to show how much we need the rule. The integrity of the game is at stake, and just as any businessman capable of turning a struggling league into a flourishing global enterprise would do, David Stern got stern. If by the end of the year players are still getting ejected on a consistent basis then it’s their own fault, but at least their learning what the rest of the world learned when mom said “no pets in the house”.