Adam Silver, NBA Bosses Need To Put A Choke Hold On These Fights
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OK, the NBA is entering the danger zone.

Or shall we say the fight zone?

Whatever you want to call this explosion out of nowhere of brawls around the league, it’s not good for an industry that made a record $10 billion last season after nearly vanishing off the face of the earth during the 1970s due to, well, brawls around the league. Let’s just say NBA officials need to take this seriously, and they sort of are, but they’ve got to stop dribbling into the lane with that soft stuff and slam these knuckleheads with authority.

To translate: These fines and suspensions are too low.

Way too low.

First, about these knuckleheads . . .

Five players were ejected Friday night during a game in Minneapolis after they unofficially began auditioning for a career in mixed martial arts in front of the Orlando Magic bench. It began with Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers and Magic center Mo Bamba huffing and puffing at each other before a bunch of other folks from both teams threatened to blow the whole house down.

The night before in Cleveland, Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies tumbled to the floor on a play, rolled into the leg of the Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell and punched the opponent in the groin. Soon, arms and legs of players, coaches and referees were flying everywhere underneath a rim.

Remember The Malace at the Palace in 2004 when players on the Indiana Pacers exchanged blows with the hometown Detroit Pistons and those in the stands? Well, in December, a hip check by the Orlando Magic’s Moe Wagner against Killian Hayes nearly triggered Malace, Part II, but only in the Pistons’ new home of Little Caesars Arena.

Which brings us to NBA Rule No. 12 Section VII, which says, “During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be subject to suspension, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.”

Up to $50,000?

Why not at least $50,000?

Even that’s ridiculously generous when the average salary for an NBA player last season was $7.3 million.

Anyway, your average player couldn’t care less about fines. When I worked for the San Francisco Examiner during the early 1980s, Frank Robinson, the Baseball Hall of Famer who managed the San Francisco Giants at the time, told me the only way you get the attention of professional athletes is through suspensions — lengthy ones, because if nothing else, everybody wants to play.

Now consider this: Regarding the penalties for what nearly became Malace, Part II last December in Detroit, the NBA suspended the Pistons’ Wagner for two games as the instigator of the brawl and eight Orlando players for one game.


That’ll teach them.

Why not a week’s suspension (at least) for any violator of NBA Rule No. 12 Section VII under any circumstance?

Under the collective bargaining agreement, NBA Players Association officials would have to agree, but they should. They, along with their dribbling clients have an incentive to join commissioner Adam Silver and his 30 bosses called the team owners in wanting to do whatever they can to keep their league from even the hint of drifting back to its bad, old days of the 1970s.

There was the drug thing. In 1980, The Los Angeles Times reported that up to 75% of NBA players during the previous decade used cocaine, and the newspaper added that one in 10 smoked or freebased the drug.

There was the race thing. Sports Illustrated was among those to mention that a slew of Americans saw the league as too Black, especially in 1979 when the New York Knicks started the league’s first all-Black team.

There was the TV thing. The NBA’s ratings were so awful during the decade that the Finals regularly were played on tape delay. That resulted from the drug thing and the race thing combining with the fight thing.

In the 1970s, somebody got clobbered nearly every NBA game, and brawls often followed.

Nothing surpassed 1977, when Rudy Tomjanovich rushed onto the court during a fight between his Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers. He was slammed in the face by the fist of Kermitt Washington. The blow knocked Tomjanovich to the floor with a fractured skull, cheekbone and nose.

Regarding the Washington-Tomjanovch nightmare, this recent wave of NBA fights hasn’t produced anything like that.

You know . . . yet.

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