Ah, spring. A season adorned with blue skies, fair weather, flowers and, of course, the neverending NBA playoffs. The playoffs always have lessons to teach, and, so far, this is what they have taught me.
I think I’m probably the first sane person to say this – but maybe not to think it – but Ron Artest should have been considered a candidate for MVP. When the Kings traded Sacramento’s beloved shooter and playoff houdini Peja Stojakovic for the borderline insane Artest, the world held its breath waiting for Ron-Ron’s next crazy antic. That’s when he did the craziest thing he’s ever done: He turned the Sacramento “Queens” from a bottom-feeding joke, to a playoff contender capable of upsetting San Antonio. The only stat that matters is wins and losses, and without Artest, the Kings would be sitting at home right now instead of practicing for the Spurs. He isn’t the top candidate for MVP, but he should be mentioned by somebody.
Basketball players have been watching too much soccer. Maybe hanging with footballer turned baller, Steve Nash, too long, but Raja Bell flops more than Renaldinio and gets the whistle every time. Vlade Divac is sitting at home watching the playoffs and even he thinks the flopping is out of control. Tyson Chandler can stand up when Shaq backs him down, but watch him hit the deck when Dwyane Wade nicks him on the way to the hoop. It isn’t crafty; it’s cowardly and quite frankly, pretty annoying. Every team is guilty and I can’t believe that the refs really can’t see a flop from a mile away. I say penalize the flopper, let the floppee play basketball.
The NBA and NBA officials have made some asinine overreactions thus far. Udonis Haslem was not throwing his mouthpiece at Joey Crawford. The only thing he was throwing was a tantrum, and I’m not sure that tantrums deserve one-game suspensions. I think that if a professional athlete with the athleticism of Haslem wanted to throw his mouthpiece at an official – he would have done better than a little dribbler that kinda-sorta headed towards his shoe. Ron-Ron might be crazy, but he didn’t deserve his suspension either. Artest didn’t “hit” Manu Ginobili any harder than he was hit, but like a kid with a long rap sheet, his trial was over before it ever began. While Crawford is busy making sure his name gets in the paper, the refs are missing the big fouls and calling the small ones – see: Anthony Johnson’s game-winner in game one of Pacers/Nets. They’ve been blowing whistles for flops, and pretty much making up the rules mid-game. If anybody deserves a suspension it’s the refs. Give them the day off and let me call a game, by myself. I probably couldn’t do that great of a job, but it certainly wouldn’t be worse.
And finally, I’d like to talk about the possible fruition of a dream of mine: the locker-room series that could be; the battle for Los Angeles; the playoff series that could turn Los Angeles into a sports town. L.A. might start to look like Chicago or New York, where fans have a strict allegiance to one team and one team only, instead of the big brother – little brother system currently in vogue in L.A. Out of the series, a rivalry could be born and basketball needs a good rivalry. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are gone, but maybe Kobe Bryant and Elton Brand can pick up where they left off. One more Lakers win and let the battle begin.
The regular season was all well and good, but it’s over and now every game counts. Despite the NBA’s best efforts, this is basketball in its finest form.
And I’m loving every minute of it.