Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a Celtics fan; have been for more than 40 years. Blame my dad. He brainwashed his kids early on to root for all teams Boston, despite the fact that we grew up on Long Island. He was a born-and-bred Bostonian and proud of it. For the most part, it’s been a lot of fun. With 17 NBA titles, seven World Series rings, five Stanley Cups and three Super Bowl wins to Beantown’s credit, it’s actually been quite bountiful.
Which is what leads me to my latest observation: Is the NBA getting too soft in its efforts to police its own players? As the Celts battle for their 18th ring this month and next, I couldn’t help but notice Kevin Garnett’s latest flare-up and subsequent suspension for winging a solid left elbow to the left cheek of Miami’s Quentin Richardson during Sunday’s Game 1 of their Eastern Conference opening-round series. After trailing by as many as 14 points, the C’s came back and took control of the game in the fourth quarter. Then, with less than two minutes remaining, Boston Captain Paul Pierce pulled one of his Oscar-winning routines after dropping a bounce pass off to Garnett from the left side.
He landed on the floor near the Heat’s bench where Garnett and the curiously interested Richardson came to check on Pierce’s status (he was fine, like he always is). But when Garnett told Richardson to mind his own business, several other players converged to see what was up. In a matter of seconds, pushing ensued and then Garnett flung an elbow to make a point: Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. With adrenaline pumping and tempers flaring, it’s very difficult to get athletes (NBA or otherwise) to go quietly into the night. That was certainly the case in point here with Garnett. Now I’m not condoning his cheap-shot elbow to Richardson, but I am questioning the one-game suspension that followed. It was surprising to me as well as a lot of other basketball watchers.
Because I can remember a certain game during the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals between the Celtics and Pistons – you know, when men were men and body bruises proved it – when a loudmouth by the name of Bill Laimbeer got leveled by one Robert Parish and the zebras didn’t call a thing. Maybe they didn’t see it, or maybe they just didn’t like Laimbeer. Or maybe they saw everything, including Laimbeer’s constant whining and earlier mugging of Larry Bird, and just decided to let “The Chief” put an end to things. Parish, as you may recall, was an imposing figure back then and did project a rather intimidating presence with his stoic stare. But more than anything, it was just part of the game and play went on. No “T” was called, no ejection followed, and certainly no one-game suspension took place. It was simply overlooked, conceivably for the good of the game.
Which brings me to my $64,000 question: Do you think the referees in NBA games are too quick to call fouls, ticky-tack or otherwise? As it turns out, the Celtics blasted the Heat in Game 2 (minus Garnett) by a 106-77 margin. I was surprised by that outcome too, but I’d still like to hear your opinion on NBA refs. What do you say?