NBA POLITENESS POLICE

May 9, 2009

Mark Heisler wrote an open letter to NBA Commissioner “King David” Stern saying:
David Stern, Commissioner National Basketball Assn.

475 Park Ave.

New York, NY

Dear David,

I have a joke for you: What would you call you and the rest of your vast legal staff in the NBA office at the bottom of the sea?
A good start.
Just kidding, more or less. I actually have great respect for the way you’ve run this league, except for this one tiny little thing:
Can you stop messing around with our playoffs?
Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?
Who told you someone wants a postseason dominated not by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, but by you, Stu Jackson and that general you put in charge of the referees, perhaps to turn them into an elite force to kidnap Mark Cuban?
Stu, of course, is your VP of Suspensions, and business is picking up.
Oops, there goes another one: Derek Fisher, tried to run through Luis Scola’s screen at an improper speed, and he is suspended for a game.
This isn’t about Fish, but your insufferable judicial system that’s out of control, like V.I.K.I., the computer that tries to take over the world in “I Robot.”
If only we could inject the nanites into the league office. . . . I have a scoop for you — your league is in great shape with young stars, big Eastern cities like Boston and Chicago coming back online, new management in New York and the Lakers set for years.
Not that you can assume too much while Ron Artest is active, but the fighting you set out to get rid of ended long ago. Nevertheless, the system you put in place is still voracious, and capable of devouring itself.
It already happened in my nomination for Stupidest Thing This League Ever Did: the 2007 suspension of Amare Stoudemire for leaving the bench, before going back without engaging anyone.
With Phoenix having just won in San Antonio to tie their series, losing Stoudemire all but gave the Spurs the pivotal Game 5 in Phoenix. The Spurs then eliminated the Suns, overwhelmed the Jazz and swept the Cavaliers in the lowest-rated Finals ever.
I didn’t think you could miss learning from that fiasco, and it wasn’t that your players would have to learn to control themselves better.
Like, how about letting them serve their suspensions next season, so you can play your games and we can still have our playoffs?
How hard is that? I don’t make $8 million a year, and no one ever mentioned me as a senatorial candidate.
You geniuses came perilously close to trashing this spring’s treasure of a series between Boston and Chicago, after Rajon Rondo got tangled up with Kirk Hinrich in Game 6, and slung him by the arm into the scorer’s table.
Chicago Coach Vinny Del Negro campaigned for Rondo to be suspended. Stu probably ran the video so many times, he still sees it frame by frame in his sleep.
For a change, no one was suspended and the fans got to see both teams on even terms in Game 7.
Lucky  us.
I know how close we came. One New York Times editorial beforehand questioning your evenhandedness, or suggesting you would cater to TV, and Rondo would have been gonzo.
That’s what the playoffs are now: Skirmish, pregnant pause for league review while the opposing coach says this crime against humanity demands a suspension, followed by . . . drum roll . . . the decision!
Where amazing happens . . . at least with the players we have left.
Without any fights this spring, you’ve already suspended Fisher, Dwight Howard, Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem, and the second round just started.
Have you legal eagles noticed that you keep defining the crimes down?
First it was fighting. Then a two-handed shove was a fight. Then you could get suspended for taking one step off the bench if two players were just upset with each other — as Stoudemire was, after Robert Horry’s hard foul on Steve Nash.
I was completely behind you when you started this in the ’90s, when Detroit’s Bad Boys tried to put Michael Jordan on his back every time he drove, putting in the flagrant foul rules that ensured it would be a game of artistry, rather than one in which artists were hunted like deer.
Now Bryant hitting Artest with a one-inch elbow as they wrestle for position under the hoop is a flagrant foul?
With that as a standard, you would have suspended Kevin McHale for life for clothes-lining Kurt Rambis in the 1984 Finals if you had been commissioner.
Oh, I forgot, you were commissioner. McHale got a personal foul, but no technical, no fine and no suspension.
I miss those days. No, I’m serious. I’ll bet even Rambis misses those days.
That was a great series, with the Celtics avoiding being swept by coming from behind in the last minute of Games 2 and 4, and going on to beat the Lakers, 4-3.
Of course, it may get even better. If you keep suspending people for your biggest games, our memories will be all that’s left for us.
Extra-legally yours,
Mark Heisler”

In our playground, it was- “No Blood, No Foul”

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