Whether it’s Kendrick Perkins in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals or some 12-year-old hothead playing pickup during his lunch break, basketball is by nature a game of emotion, confrontation and, sometimes, anger. So it’s unavoidable that games will sometimes turn into Fight Club scenes, whether it’s the millionaires doing their jobs or the rec-leaguers doing it for pride.
Still, it seems this summer tensions are extra high. Already we’ve seen multiple incidents jump off during international “friendly” exhibitions leading up to this month’s FIBA World Championship — including Carlos Arroyo slapping an opponent during a Puerto Rico/Mexico game, and yesterday’s Serbia/Greece brawl. During that fight, Serbian star Nenad Krstic (OKC Thunder) threw several punches and then threw a chair. He was taken into police custody and held overnight, but sources believe FIBA will slap Krstic with a suspension of less than five games.
Had Krstic gone off like that during an NBA game, he would have been suspended for the rest of the season, or depending on when the brawl took place in the schedule, been given at least a 60 or 70-game ban. It could be seen as the only fair punishment, since Ron Artest was suspended 70-plus games following the Pacers/Pistons brawl in 2004.
Was there any difference between Krstic’s actions and Artest’s actions? You could say Artest was worse because he actually went after a fan and incited a riot that got the fans involved, but Artest also didn’t throw any objects intended to maim like Krstic’s chair-toss. Bottom line, both players went temporarily insane and were out of control, creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved.
So why such a discrepancy in punishments by the basketball governing bodies? The first reason is obvious: Krstic is never going to play 82 FIBA games — let alone 82 FIBA games in one season — so the scale by which you can punish him is different. (Although he could be given a lifetime ban.)
The second reason isn’t so clear. Is it because the NBA is too strict on players for behavior with which FIBA is more lenient? Does FIBA have a better understanding that basketball players sometimes lose control and are therefore more forgiving? Or is the NBA’s aim to create a fan-friendly product making the league softer in regards to what is deemed unacceptable?
What do you think? Is the NBA product too soft?