Leading Off: A kinder, gentler NBA is bad for basketball

Published: Monday, May. 5, 2014 - 8:36 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 6, 2014 - 8:08 am

Zach Randolph, the Memphis Grizzlies’ leading scorer this season and through the first six games of their playoff series against Oklahoma City, was suspended for Game 7 after the NBA said he “punched” the Thunder’s Steven Adams with a closed fist.

Replays showed it to be more of a shove, but if a player uses a closed fist in today’s powder-puff era of the NBA, he picks up the Go Directly to Jail card. Do not pass go; do not collect a Game 7 playoff check.

This is not your grandfather’s NBA, and your daddy probably wouldn’t recognize it, either.

When they watched NBA games, the hightops were made of black canvas and rubber soles, socks were high, the shorts were short – really short – and NBA Commissioner Larry O’Briencounted the teeth missing from a punched-out player’s face before suspending a star for a Game 7. When a 6-foot point guard didn’t dare enter the key in fear of bodily harm, players were able to police themselves on the court.

If Bill Russell of the Celtics threw an elbow at the chest of Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain, Russell could expect to receive one in return to his mouth. And rarely did the rough play lead to a fight. It was just the way the game was played.

Today, there are seemingly more tattoos in the NBA than in the United States Navy, and while the players are much bigger and stronger, the game has become soft. Referees blow their whistles at the slightest physical contact, allowing the league to become filled with entitled players who whine if they are called for fouls and stomptheir feet if one isn’t called for them.

A kinder and gentler NBA makes for bad basketball. Thank goodness, though, the league got something right: longer shorts.

– Victor Contreras


Today’s poll

Has the NBA become too soft?

• Yes

• No

Vote above, or go to sacbee.com/sports

Monday’s results

What will happen to the 49ers’ Aldon Smith?

• Become citizen the 49ers want him to be: 35%

• Traded before 2015: 19%

• Released after another incident: 46%

Total votes: 181

Read more articles by Victor Contreras

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