Delenda Est Carthago

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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The grossest miscarriage of justice in American history!

Raja Bell was suspended today. Oh, the humanity!

Those of you not following the NBA playoffs, I apologize for delving into it here. Usually I don't give a tiny rat's ass about the NBA playoffs, but living in Phoenix the past few years has piqued my interest, because the Suns, although I don't really care whether they win or lose, are a fun team, and I'd like to see their up-tempo style of play take over the league, because back when I was growing up and enjoyed the NBA, teams played like that, and it was fun. Now, after 15 years of "defensive" basketball (meaning guys trying to score get mugged all the time and the games end up with scores like 82-76), I can barely stand it. Which is why I like the Suns. They score quickly and often, and they don't care about keeping the other team down. They just figure they can outscore you. It often doesn't work in the playoffs, where the refs let players get away with even more mugging than usual, and it didn't work last year for the Suns (although they got to the Western Conference Finals) and it probably won't work this year (they're facing elimination in the first round). But the suspension of Raja Bell pisses me off.

If you don't know the tale, last night the Lakers were trying to eliminate the Suns in Phoenix. Phoenix came out strong and held a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. That's when Raja, who had been guarding adulterer and possible rapist Kobe Bryant all night, took the NBA's golden boy down with a clothesline to his throat. A flagrant foul, obviously, and Bell was tossed from the game. The Suns won to force a sixth game in Los Angeles, but they won't have Bell, who is a good defender on Bryant. They will probably lose.

Bell should have been tossed, of course. Usually, I wouldn't have a problem with a suspension, either. Other players have been suspended in this postseason for actions as bad as Bell. But others haven't been. And that's what pisses me off. Let's look at some of the crimes perpetrated in these playoffs that have led to suspensions:

Ron Artest of the Sacramento Kings gets suspended for a game for a flagrant foul on Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs. Ginobili came across the lane without the ball and Artest hit him in the side of the head with his forearm. Artest has a history of this sort of thing.

Udonis Haslem of the Miami Heat gets suspended for a game for throwing his mouthpiece at a referee.

James Posey of the Heat gets suspended for a game when he comes up behind Kirk Henrich of the Chicago Bulls while Henrich has the ball and basically hip checks him to the floor.

All of these suspensions are justified. So how is Bell's any different? Allow me to explain. Kobe had the ball and was driving the lane, unlike Ginobili. Bell was in front of him, not behind him like Posey. And when you throw things at the ref, that's a whole different level. Does that mean I think Bell was justified? Certainly not - it was a stupid foul (I told Krys if you're going to foul Bryant that hard, make sure you break his leg, because otherwise it's pointless) and might cost Phoenix the series. But it wasn't as egregious as the other fouls. Kobe had elbowed Bell in the chest once already and in the face another time. So there was some history there.

Meanwhile, a couple of other things have happened in these playoffs that are just as bad or worse than what Bell did and nobody got suspended. In this series, Luke Walton of the Lakers threw Tim Thomas of the Suns to the floor, much like Bell did to Kobe, except that Thomas was in the air, which is a lot more dangerous. No suspension for Walton. Kwame Brown of the Lakers fouled Boris Diaw of the Suns hard and then stood over him, showing him up. No suspension. For the record, I don't think either of those fouls deserved suspensions, but then again, neither did Bell's. And the Holy Grail of idiocy, a few days ago a member of the Denver Nuggets, Reggie Evans, came up behind Chris Kaman of the Los Angeles Clippers and grabbed him between the legs and pulled. It's very clear on the video (I highly recommend watching it if you can find it, because it's so bizarre) that he is grabbing, clutching, and pulling. Kaman took exception to this, as you might expect, and shoved Evans. No suspension for Evans. If you're not going to suspend a guy for grabbing another guy's family jewels deliberately, you can't suspend Raja Bell for knocking a guy down.

So why was Bell suspended? These playoffs have been poorly officiated, as usual, and both teams have been getting shafted and a bit chippy. My feeling is that Bell was suspended because the person he took down was Kobe Bryant. Despite his adultery, despite possibly raping someone, despite his arrogance, the NBA wants to push Kobe as the next Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player in history, but he also got away with pretty much anything he wanted. Now he's gone, and the NBA is looking for someone to bring in the crowds. Kobe in L.A. does that, especially if they go far in the playoffs. If the person driving the lane had been Smush Parker, I doubt if Bell would be sitting tomorrow. But that's just my opinion.

This is one of the reasons why I get vexed by teams sports. I love football, but the refs often have too much control. Basketball has long been this way. It's frustrating to watch, because you have no idea why some calls are made and some are not, and therefore it becomes arbitrary and far too easy to believe in conspiracies. I don't think the refs are deliberately calling the games in favor of the Lakers, but when it gets off the court and suspensions are being handed down, I begin to wonder. And I don't want to wonder. I want to enjoy the game, because despite my all-consuming loathing of the Lakers in general and Kobe Bryant specifically, this has been a pretty entertaining series. It's too bad it's somewhat tainted now.

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Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

I hate the Lakers too, which is why I'm rooting for the Clippers, of all teams, who used to be the Buffalo Braves, and who have been the poor cousin in their own venue.

4/5/06 12:39 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

If the Suns win, obviously I'll be rooting for them, but if not, I think it would fantastic if the Clippers beat the Lakers. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound!

4/5/06 7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't stand it when biased people write an unintelligible article concerning anything especially sports. Basketball is a physical game and Bell has been all over Kobe this series. He has been literally leaning on him. If Kobe turns, Bell is going to get hit. Bell clotheslined Bryant. A player simply can't be allowed to get away with such acts.

4/5/06 8:05 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Gee, Anonymous, that's too bad. I admit I'm biased, and I don't really think this was unintelligible, but that's your opinion. I certainly think that Bell was wrong, but he does have a point that Kobe has been elbowing him the whole series. First you say that basketball is a physical game like it's a good thing, but then you say Bell has been leaning all over Kobe like it's a bad thing. Please make up your mind!

My point is that what Bell did was wrong and probably should warrant a suspension, but if we look at in the context of what has been getting suspensions (hitting people when they don't have the ball, throwing things at the refs) and what HASN'T been getting suspensions (Luke Walton's identical play on Tim Thomas, Reggie Evans grabbing Chris Kaman by the balls), it seems fishy that Bell got suspended. The NBA and the officials have to be a lot more consistent.

Players can't be allowed to get away with clotheslining players, yes. Players can't be allowed to get away with knocking guys down in mid-air or grabbing people in the crotch, either.

4/5/06 8:34 AM  

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