By Kevin Cowherd
The Baltimore Sun
12:15 PM EDT, June 4, 2013
Like your basketball rough? Then you must be loving the NBA playoffs, where the physical play is now officially ridiculous, to the point where it’s making a mockery of the game.
The Miami Heat’s 99-76 win over the Indiana Pacers Monday to advance to the NBA Final was just the latest example.
Watching all the banging, pushing and shoving that goes on is breath-taking – and not in a good way. And that’s not even counting the flagrant fouls, some of which are actually whistled by the referees.
A typical play goes like this: ball goes into the big man in the paint. He lowers his shoulder and drives into the defender, who responds by slamming the offensive player with his chest.
After a few seconds of this back-and-forth mugging, the player with the ball either steam-rolls his way to the basket or gets drilled by the defender, who may or may not be whistled for a foul.
Or else the ball gets kicked out to an open man on the perimeter, who either takes a shot or passes it back inside so all the dreary mayhem continues.
There are hippo fights along the Zambezi River that offer more grace and charm.
How many times can you watch Pacers big man Roy Hibbert ramming his leg into the backside of the Heat’s Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who’s backing in like a garbage truck, without thinking you’re watching pro wrestling, only without the turnbuckles?
How any times can you see the Birdman and the Pacers’ Tyler Hansbrough banging inside like two deranged elephants before the whole thing becomes almost unwatchable?
If the NBA wants to prevent its game from devolving into a nightly dock brawl, if it wants to showcase the dazzling skill and athleticism of its great athletes, it needs to mandate that referees call the games tighter, not looser.
A foul has to go back to being a foul.
Lower a shoulder into the defender and it’s an offensive foul. Ram your chest into the player posting you up and it’s a foul. Whistle all the grabbing, yoking, head-slapping and arm-locking that goes on now. Make the penalties for flagrant fouls so stiff that players will think twice about cold-cocking someone on a drive to the basket.
NBA players are too big and strong and quick to allow the kind of physicality we’re seeing now. Someone’s going to get seriously hurt.
No, no one wants to see whistles stopping play every 10 seconds.
But what we’re seeing in these playoffs isn’t basketball.
I don’t know what it is. But it’s real ugly to watch.
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