Almost a year ago, I penned a piece about sportsmanship, one that involved Serge Ibaka and Dwyane Wade. In that particular situation Ibaka and Wade became entangled. Okay, Ibaka essentially fell on Wade’s neck. The way the two handled the “conflict” was admirable. No punches or cheap shots of any kind were thrown. Sportsmanship (and common sense) had prevailed.
Fast-foward roughly 11 months and Ibaka is now going to be on the receiving end of my wrath.
Late in the fourth quarter of a closely contested contest between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, Ibaka blatantly slammed his fist into Blake Griffin’s groin. Griffin, a notorious flopper, went to the ground in obvious pain. The referees opted not to toss Ibaka, instead calling a Flagrant I.
Oklahoma City went on to win the game, and that was that. Except its not.
This isn’t about Griffin deserving what he got, because he didn’t. You don’t hit a man where the sun don’t shine, no matter how infamous a “faker” he may be. This isn’t about Ibaka getting caught up in the competitive beast either. Malice was intended, and it was disgusting.
Now, I’m not about to assert that the everyone in the NBA is on the edge of attempting to emasculate their opponent, because it’s not true. But clearly fines, suspensions and even harsher in-game penalties aren’t working as well as the league would like. I’m not simply talking about the error that was made here. Ibaka should have been tossed, but those types of miscues happen.
What I simply don’t understand is what Ibaka was thinking here. Why would he think that’s alright? This isn’t “basketball” as Ibaka himself put it afterward. This is degenerate behavior.
No, I’m not exonerating Griffin from all the wrong he’s done, from all of his flops. But there’s a line between shady and dirty, and Ibaka crossed it. Just like the Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors crossed it a few days before.
As fans and pundits, we like to make jokes; we like to mock these trivial happenstances. The problem is we’re no longer dealing with isolated incidents. The Pacers-Warriors brawl, Ibaka’s cheap shot and Carmelo Anthony following Kevin Garnett to the bus, they’re all connected. These things aren’t compelling or embraceable. They’re inane.
Knowing this, it’s not about fines, suspensions and the like. It’s about somehow instilling a sense of accountability in these players (not all of them; I’m not generalizing) It’s about making them understand this is not okay.
They tell basketball players to leave it all on the floor, but there’s some thing’s that need to be checked at the door.
Like egos and any motivation they have to embody indecency.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.