There is nothing better than some rough stuff to make a series interesting. I was only moderately interested in the Houston-Lakers series until the mayhem that ensued in Game 2. Now this series has become must-see-TV.
It comes as no surprise that Ron Artest found himself in the middle of the bro ha ha. What is surprising is that he isn’t being portrayed as the villain for once. There is perhaps only one player in the League that is capable of taking the villain role away from Artest, and that would be one Kobe Bean Bryant.
Kobe has been known to throw some ‘bows, but the talk that he wasn’t suspended after Game 2 because he is a superstar is just silly. The elbow he laid on Artest was hardly blatant or malicious. However, the fact that he wasn’t punished and Artest was kicked out of the game for getting into his face about it does cater to the belief that superstars are treated differently. Now Bryant knows that he can get away with throwing elbows without any action from the League or from opposing players. If a player can’t even get into Kobe’s smug face to challenge him after a hard foul without getting tossed., there is not much risk that anyone is going to be willing to retaliate physically to a Bryant cheap shot (with the exception being Raja Bell).
Which brings me back to reminiscing of the good old days, where frontier justice ruled the NBA. A time where players like Laimbeer, Mahorn, Oakley and the X-Man weren’t afraid to dish out the punishment (and cheap shots) to opponents. A time where players could stand up for themselves without getting lengthily suspensions. The way things are now, you can’t even foul someone relatively hard without getting a flagrant foul and/or fine and suspension. The Kenyon Martin foul on Dirk being the prime example.
But, going back to Artest again, after what he did in Detroit (aka the Malice in the Palace) we will never get back to those good old days again. The NBA is so sanitized now that a player can’t even take a step away from the bench during an altercation without being suspended. But, what the powers-that-be should realize is that violence sells – why do you think hockey still allows fighting. And a little rough stuff is the best way to create an intriguing, emotional, intense playoff rivalry. And, because of it, I’m more interested than ever in Rockets/Lakers proceedings.