Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, left, is fouled by Los Angeles Clippers small forward Matt Barnes as he goes up for a shot during the second half of their NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 25, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
CHICAGO – The NBA is a physical sport where contact is inevitable as the dribble. Make no mistake, though, the NBA is not the mixed martial arts.
To ensure that players get that message loud and clear before the 2013-14 regular season kicks off on the 29th of this month, the league has already imposed several fines and at least one suspension as a consequence of extreme foul play.
Markieff Morris of the Phoenix Suns was suspended for a game after elbowing Serge Ibaka in the face last October 22. The incident happened in the third quarter of the Suns' 88-76 triumph over the Oklahoma City Thunder at the US Airways Arena.
Last Monday, 5-foot-9 former Bull Nate Robinson, who left Chicago to sign a two-year $4 million deal with the Denver Nuggets, was fined $10,000 for pushing OKC's 7-foot center Steven Adams "from behind and striking in the chest."
The Robinson-Adams skirmish occurred in the 10:59 mark of the fourth quarter of the Thunder's 109-81 romp over the Nuggets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 15.
When the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks, 100-95, last October 21, Mavs superstar Dirk Nowitzki was ejected with 24.5 left in the third quarter after hitting Omri Casspi on the side of the head.
While no other action since been taken besides the flagrant 2 ejection, Nowitzki is likely to be assessed with at least a fine or suspension, if not both.
The NBA is not, for a lack of a better term, mellowing. It is merely promoting clean and fair play. There is always room for tough plays, sure, but there will be zero tolerance for dirty antics that endanger the well-being of a player.
The league appreciates that action in a sport that is played on mach speed often leads to bumps and bruises. Those mishaps, however, can only be physical, not bordering on the criminal.
Back in the late 80s and early 90s when the Bad Boys from Detroit were terrorizing the NBA with their brutish approach to defense, Michael Jordan had to bulk up 20 pounds one off-season so he could withstand the brutal pounding.
The Pat Riley-coached New York Knicks of the 90s left a similar trail of fear and intimidation. With 6-foot-9 forwards Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason teaming up with 7-foot center Patrick Ewing, the Knicks built a defense that was both unyielding and unforgiving.
The “No Harm, No Foul” era was fun. A time when the hand check was still legal and a hard foul was merely called a love tap.
But good, hard-nosed basketball minus the extra-curricular stuff is just as fun. Just look at the Clippers and how they lob the bejesus out of the competition. And look at the Miami Heat and the way they space the floor and run the break.
Sure, a little shoving and pushing here and there in the playoffs is good macho stuff. But the safety NBA players need to be protected. You don't have to be a physicist to figure out that LeBron James in crutches can't entertain his fans.
The NBA is just a game, and when the final horn buzzes, no player should end up with broken limbs and busted noses.