Monday, December 18, 2006

The need to Melo out

If you're on a team that's getting embarrassed by a superior opponent, it's not their fault you cannot make the game competitive.

The NBA announced the punishments for the particpants of this weekend's NBA brawl. At the heart of the fight was Mardy Collins hard foul on J.R. Smith. Both players were suspended, six games and 10 games, respectively. Good. There should be suspensions for those on-court actions. It was absurd.

What I don't understand are the New York Knicks sympathizers, saying that the Nuggets shouldn't have been "running up the score" so late in the contest. Some say it was wrong of Denver to have their starters in the game when it was "already decided."

Just to clarify, the foul took place with 1:15 left in the game, which ended as a 123-100 win for Denver. If Isiah Thomas felt the hard foul was necessary to send a message to opponents not to run up the score, he's officially a worse coach than team president.

If the downtrodden New York Knicks can't win a game and can't keep it competitive, it's not the Nuggets' responsibility to keep it close so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. The Nuggets as an organization should focus on winning games, and that's it.

"I'll swear on my children's life that I never thought about running up the score. I wanted to get a big win on the road," Nuggets head coach George Karl told reporters the next day.

"My team has had trouble holding leads at the end of games. I didn't want the score to get under 10 points because if it would've gotten under 10 points it would've had a negative feeling on my team."

So what's wrong with that?

If the Knicks don't want to get embarrassed, play better. Plain and simple. Maybe practice a little more. Whatever you need to do. Don't blame other teams for running up the score.

The NBA has a shot clock, which means that at some point during a possesion the Nuggets would have had to shoot the ball. If that's a layup, jumper or hook shot, that doesn't matter, but they have to shoot or else it's a turnover.

Also, the Nuggets have a responsibility to their fan base: to entertain them. If that means leaving the starters in to attempt 360-dunks and alley-oops during the final minutes of a blowout, then so be it. Nuggets fans probably wanted to see a big win. Karl said he wanted a big win. The Knicks' shortcomings aren't reason enough to give up on that goal.

I didn't see anyone in the United States complaining about the original Dream Team "running up the score" when they won all their games by an average of 44 points during the 1992 Olympics. Why? Because we wanted to see our team crush all the rest. Just like fans in Denver probably wanted to see their team crush the Knicks. Just like when a team I root for plays, I want to see them crush their opponent.

Close games can be fun to look back on, but in the moment they can be cause for a heart attack (just ask the Steelers fan who had one when Bettis fumbled on the goalline back in January).

The suspensions are fair, but any complaints against the Nuggets are not. You don't want them to run up the score: then take your bench players off the court and put your starters back in to match up against theirs.

Thomas can't just send goons to commit hard fouls when his team can't stop anyone. If he really wants to prevent those types of final scores, perhaps the Knicks should find more capable players - or better front office personnel.

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