Saturday, November 20, 2004

Malice in the Palace

November 20, 2004

Where to begin? What happened last night in Detroit was one of the most shocking, depressing, and just down right scariest moments in sports history. In the last 15 hours or so, we have both watched dozens of replays of this incident to tryour best to catch as much of the the chaos as possible. In the end, we thought it would be best if we both put in our 2 cents on last night's melee, and thus decided to have an in-depth conversation to try and cover most of the angles.

Anthony: Who's most to blame for this ugly incident?

Paul: You can place blame on a number of guys--Wallace for initiating the incident, Jackson for provoking the crowd (and the players), Artest for taking things way too far, and of course the fans for abusing their privleges as spectators.

Anthony: Yeah, i agree. It's difficult to place blame on just one particular party, but I think the whole scenario starts with Ron Artest. If that was say, Austin Croshere with a hard foul on Wallace, I don't think Big Ben retaliates like that. The sour taste Artest has left in his opponents, teammates, and fans for years now is really the starting point to all this...

Paul: It's true, but we also have to remember that Ben Wallace was almost certainly playing with a saddening amount of pent-up emotions due to the loss of his oldest brother just last week. Combine that with a frustrating loss to a bitter rival in your own building and you can see where Wallace's uncharacteristic outburst came from, and how this whole incident really sprung about.

Anthony: I don't think there is any excuse here. These are professional athletes making millions of dollars to conduct themselves as gentlemen both on and off the court. If Ben Wallace was not emotionally ready to play again, then he should not be out there. Artest, of all people, walked away from the whole matter knowing Wallace was completely out of line. With all the whistles in the game today, if the foul was indeed that violent, a flagrant would have been called. There's obviously a league wide hate for Artest. When Wallace, most definately angered by his brother's death, turned around to see Artest, it was natural instinct to go after him.

Paul: I'm interested to see what David Stern and the league office have to say about this incident in respect to Artest. I mean the guy is obviously a case that can't just be treated like anyone else. You have to wonder if they're going to employ a no-tolerance policy on Artest because his behavior is borderline out-of-control. You could argue that Artest has become the greatest triple-threat of all time: outstanding shut-down defender, capable of dropping 30 on any given night, and the most volatile, unpredictable personaility the league has ever seen.

Anthony: He's definately established himself as the prototypical no-nonsense defender, striking intimidation throughout his opponents. I agree that Stern and the league absolutely need to view Artest in an entirely seperate light from the other players. Artest has been a nuicance since the day he set foot in the league and he basically placed the exclamation point on his madness last night. Was that even the right kid who threw a beer at him? How could he tell? He was laying down, never expecting to get hit, yet he was able to determine exactly who hit him?

Paul: In the heat of the moment, especially when you're dealing with Artest, it's understandable why someone would snap like that. It really is just a shame that there wasn't enough security at the Palace to take care of the situation more effectively, and more promptly. I'm sure that they'll address this the next time they meet in Detroit on March 25th. Heck, they better take some serious security precautions the next time these teams face-off in Indiana on Christmas Day. Forget presents, I now have a bigger reason to count down the days till December 25th.

Paul: **NEWSFLASH ** The NBA just suspended Artest, O'Neal, Jackson, and Wallace indefinitely; effective immediately.

Paul: That's not surprising. Before we get into the specifics on the suspensions, let me ask you Anthony, what do you think about Jamaal Tinsley? Should he get suspended? I'm leaning towards no, maybe a game. I didn't realize it was him at the time, but Tinsley was the player that grabbed the dust pan(?) and used it to fend off fans from attacking O'Neal. It didn't appear as though he was using it to hurt anyone, just as an attempt to keep them away from his teammate.

Anthony: We could delve into the details all day long and try to uncover what Tinsely did exactly, but I think the primary focus of the league should be the main culprits in all this. I think the hefty suspensions, besides Artest, should go to Jackson and O'Neal. Jackson would not leave the situation alone. He was itching to clock someone, even antagonizing Lindsey Hunter for an extending amount of time. O'Neal struck a man in the face while he was struggling to get off the ground because Artest had just clocked his friend in the face. Sure, the fans shouldn't be on the court, but was there any true reason for O'Neal and Jackson to act like this? O'Neal honestly could have killed that man. He's what, 6'11", 240, punching a man as hard as he could in the face? It's insane. Tinsley will get 1 or 2, but he didn't antagonize anyone, just stooped to the level of everyone else; its kind of hard to blame him.

Paul: So let's make some predictions...Artest?

Anthony: 12-14 games

Paul: 12-15 games

Anthony: Got to be different, huh?

Paul: Of course. Jackson--10-12 sound right?

Anthony: Less. 8-10

Paul: O'neal...5-8

Anthony: Sounds about right. But, nothing should seem right here. We're dealing with a situation that no one has ever dealt with. Kids look up to these guys to show them what's right and wrong on and off the basketball court. There was an image of a little boy crying in his brothers arms that I hope Artest, Jackson, O'Neal and Wallace all get a chance to see, over and over and over again. They have ruined the perception of the game for millions of fans, and especially little kids. It's just a very sickening feeling to realize what these players actually did last night. I'm not taking any of the blame away from the fans, but players need to act in a manner we all expect of them.

Paul: Well...all I expect from Ron Artest is the unexpected and that's exactly what we got last night from him. His behavior and his actions need to be addressed; I think he's going to get one more chance from Stern and then that's it. Either a year-long suspension or (gulp) permanent expulsion. But as the other players are concerned, you're right. Just poor judgment, and tasteless, immature, inexcusable behavior. This is a league wide-issue for the players, not just the players involved in this incident. It's time for NBA players to step up and act like the role models and professionals we should expect them to be. I'm going to keep watching no matter what, but what about Little Timmy Thompson and his loving father, Dr. Tim Thompson, Sr.?

Paul: Are they going to keep watching Anthony, are they? (Wipes tear from eye)

Anthony: God bless the Thompsons Paul and shame on you. The main societal problem this causes is that the majority of basketball these days is played in rough urban neighborhoods. If NBA players are showing us that it's ok to hit anyone you want in the face, push someone after they foul you, or even attack fans, how is this not expected to be carried over into the real world? It's a very scary situation in many perspectives. I think there is the possiblity of Stern and co. just giving out ridiculous suspensions and fines to show that this will not be condoned and to give fans some assurance that this will never happen again.

Paul: I think that may just be the best solution---for everyone. It's integral that the NBA shows that this is a league with role models, that this is a league that can be celebrated for the beautiful artisitry, athleticism, and cohesiveness that it displays, not for the poor sportsmanship and discerning behavior it's becoming known for.


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