Playoff Basketball, I’ve Missed You

By Chris Le

Nothing passes the time quite like nostalgia.

I can stare at my screensaver, a slideshow of all of the pictures on my computer, for hours on end, and I’ll reminisce about the events of each image, smiling all the while. Seventy-five of my top 100 songs–if I were to make such a list–would be ranked, not because of their enjoyable melodies or head-bobbing beats, but because they are inextricably linked to particular moments of my life: the song that softly played during my first kiss, a tune that evokes memories of my first college trip to Vegas, that R&B joint that still to this day serves as a painful reminder of how I let that one girl get away…I can go on for hours with this.

And my longing for fonder times applies to all aspects of my life, especially to the realm of sports. I’m old school through and through. With boxing–the most ancient of all athletic contests–I’m an ardent advocate of 15 rounds, one champ per division, same day weigh-ins and the abolition of the junior/super weight classes.  Call me a sadist, but that is how boxing should be, like it was in the golden age of the sport.

When it comes to football, I’m all for horse-collar tackles and (slightly) late hits on quarterbacks. I say, enough of this protection by referees; it’s a contact sport, and the quarterback should be as much a viable target as any other position. And if it’s legal to drag down a ball carrier by his dreadlocks, then horse-collar tackles should be kosher as well.

And finally, for basketball, I’m an avid supporter of dunks (no thanks to the player formerly known as Lew Alcindor), hand-checking and of course, the good, old-fashioned playoff foul.

That’s why, after one-and-a-quarter rounds of playoff basketball, you see nothing on my face but an ear-to-ear smile. Like Ahmad, these first few games have me thinking of “Back in the Day,” when flagrant twos were run-of-the-mill whistle calls, almost brushed off as a natural consequence of a physical game played by gigantic, brooding men.

Not since the early ’90s have I seen such deliberately physical play.  We got a small taste of it in the ’07 playoffs when Robert Horry sent Steve Nash crashing into the announcers table like a rag doll.  But not much else–until this year.

Here’s a list of the action so far:

  • Dwight Howard sideswipes Samuel Dalembert’s head with an elbow. Howard is known as a player with a child-like demeanor but lacking the requisite killer instinct to be great, and that’s what makes this one so surprising. It was a pretty vicious blow–and don’t let Dalembert’s relatively nondescript reaction fool you into thinking otherwise–that occurred after the play was done. The suspension was well deserved, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more ‘bows from Dwight in the future. Imagine how dominant he’d be if players actually feared him. He’d be like Mike Tyson before Robin Givens and Buster Douglas stole his dignity.
Youre my bitch.

The NBA is my bitch.

  • Rajon Rondo clotheslines Brad Miller. This one, I thought, was special, coming straight from the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons’ playbook. How this was not a flagrant two is beyond me; how Rondo wasn’t penalized postgame is even more perplexing. The fact that Rondo didn’t follow through with the arm swing shouldn’t matter. His aim was nowhere near the ball, plus it was pretty much a fishhook (which is illegal even in mixed martial arts), and he proceeds to drag Miller down…by the chin. Bravo, Rajon. Bravo.
  • Oh, an encore? Rondo pulls Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table. Not only is Rondo maturing into a top-5 point guard, he’s developing into one helluva filthy player who isn’t afraid to show his claws. Though not particularly heinous, the move was blatant and unnecessary–yet Rondo goes undisciplined once again. Geez, just because he’s small doesn’t mean he should be able to get away with murder. It’s like when a kid punches and kicks you with all his might, thinking it’s okay because he’s little. Fuck that. Kids like this need to an ass whooping.
  • Sasha Vujacic spikes Shane Battier’s face like a volleyball. My man crush on Battier aside, this one isn’t too bad, despite the horrendous result. The blow left Battier looking like a maxi pad, bloodied worse than Ricky Hatton after being blasted by Manny Pacquiao. However, Vujacic was merely trying to tap the ball out into the backcourt, and the hit was clearly incidental. Still, it at least warranted a foul call.

    Which one is Dirk?

    Which one is Dirk?

  • Kenyon Martin throws Dirk Nowitzki to the ground. Eh, whatever. I’ve grown to expect such things to happen to Dirk, the softest player in the league, who seems to suffer at least five similar embarrassments a year.
  • Rafer Alston slaps Eddie House on the back of the head. This is by far my favorite incident of the playoffs. It was utterly stupid of Alston, no doubt, and he’ll justifiably be suspended, but it was too silly not to be hilarious. It was the type of slaps upside the head that a father gives to admonish his son’s idiocy.
  • Kobe Bryant elbows Ron Artest, possibly in the throat. It’s cliche to label a physical, borderline dirty play as “playoff basketball,” but it applies here. This was just playoff basketball. There’s no better description for what transpired. It was two hard-nosed players fighting for a rebound–case closed. Elbows like this occur in every game, even in the regular season. The retroactive flagrant one is not deserved. Wow. I can’t believe I’m defending Kobe.
  • Derek Fisher lays out Luis Scola with a shoulder brush. Call it sending a message or a dirty play, I say it’s both.  And it definitely brings back memories of better days.

4 responses to “Playoff Basketball, I’ve Missed You

  1. Boxing – I’m all for same-day weigh-ins and at least an odd number of rounds. It’s ridiculous that Hatton and Pacquiao fought at 140 pounds but beefed up to 152 and 148 on fight night. And if I were Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, I would want there to be a winner than to draw after beating each other to a pulp. Ties in a game? Who does that? Even Donovan McNabb thought it wasn’t possible.

    Speaking of football, I don’t know about horse-collar tackles, Chris. A type of tackle that has a high percentage of injuring the ball carrier, there’s got to be a rule to prevent that or guys would be dropping like flies.

    Basketball – I agree that Flagrant Twos are being handed out as much as tax refunds right now and that no one gets more babied than the superstars. Look at Dick Bavetta 27 seconds into this clip.

    Rondo – Everyone thought Rondo got away with as little as when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, but when I just saw that in slow motion, it looks like he merely holds his shoulder to slow him down and makes you wonder how Miller’s mouth got bloodied.

    Sasha – Call a foul on that, please. Poor guy looks like he got a beer bottle broken over his head.

    Kobe – No way was this an ordinary play. Kobe’s elbow was as deliberate as Howard’s, the only difference being Kobe didn’t look at his target, which mitigated the gravity of the incident. He didn’t even get called for a foul, either. Good retroactive decision by Stu Jackson. But I think all coaches would agree with Phil Jackson’s remark that there’s an inconsistency with the decision-making on the fouls. Kobe and Artest need to settle this in a cage match.

    Dirtiest postseason teams thus far:
    L.A. Lakers
    Orlando Magic

    Dirtiest player:
    Rajon Rondo

  2. Houston was legit the moment T-Mac called his season off. They remind me somewhat of the Celtics of last year, except in that the talent is distributed evenly throughout the roster rather than nesting collectively in a big 3 + Rondo. They have heart and grit, and Yao is still a much better center than Howard (as evidenced by his recent trouble with the Cs). Houston is built really, really well, and they’ve held their own against the top 3 teams in the league all season long.

    The Cavs are stoppable, and even if the Lakers don’t make it to the finals this year (possible), I think Nuggets versus Cavs would be the greatest storyline possible. I think it’ll end up being Melo’s redemption (he consistently outperforms Lebron in head to head match-ups… plus I think he feels slighted for not getting the rookie of the year award even though he took a MUCH shittier Nuggets team farther than the Cavs [Miller AND Boozer??] in addition to having a better season than Lebron overall).

    Buuuut… I kind of hope the Lakers are the underdogs going into the finals… they’re funner to root for that way.

  3. Yao is much better than Howard? That’s arguable at best. Dwight’s rebounding and shot blocking are clearly better than Yao’s, and he’s still averaging an insanely solid 17 and 17 in this Boston series.

    Andre Miller was on the Nuggets, and the two had equally impressive individual rookie campaigns. They ended up the same in virtually every category. I would take LeBron over Anthony due to the 1.7 rpg margin, and that’s how close it was.

    As Chris would say, styles make fights. I wouldn’t assume Cleveland runs by whoever comes out of the Boston-Orlando series. Just look at the Lakers.

  4. Regarding the 04 rookie battle, I wouldn’t discount the amount of pressure for LeBron to be, well, the next Michael Jordan. Lesser players would’ve crumbled under such a burden (not to mention the microscope of the media and the expectations that come with an 80 million dollar nike contract) , but I’d say LeBron lived up the hype. And I think that makes his rookie campaign all the more impressive. I had no problem with him winning the award over Anthony.

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