Game 5 of the Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers Round 2 series made the NBA look more like the NVA: National Vigilante Association. This vigilante melee was punctuated by Heat benchwarmer Dexter Pittman's retribution against Pacers' Lance Stephenson for allegedly talking trash at Lebron James earlier last week (h/t Dime).
Pittman lashed out an elbow at Stephenson's neck and broke his collarbone. The hit was so powerful that it could have broken Stephenson's neck.
After the game, the Miami Heat's Dwayne Wade and Coach Erik Spoelstra both dismissed this gruesomely violent level of play as just part of "a physical series." Could it be that Wade, Spoelestra or LebronJames told Pittman to go out there and—albeit not break a Pacer's collarbone—dish out a nice, "clean" hit against someone? Maybe.
At any rate, this kind of dismissive response from Wade and Spoelstra is not the message to send out to America's youth.
While the NBA front office hasn't suspended any player yet, if their standard practice applies, Pittman, a "first-time offender," should expect a suspension in the region of seven games. That means, come late November, he'll be back on the court, ready to enforce once again.
The NBA right now is entirely delusional about the levels of violence in the league. Yes, physical play has always been romanticized in the league. In the 1980s, NBA front-court battles were compared to "alligator pits." Games were more physical, and there were several recognized "enforcers" on many teams. However, that generation's players weren't nearly as big or strong as today's NBA athletes who, in comparison to their predecessors, look like biochemically engineered giants.
The bigger you are, the stronger you are, the more damage you can cause on the court. It's that simple, and comparisons between the nature of this era's physical play and the 80s' are silly.
What's even more daunting about Pittman's offense and, for that matter, Lakers Metta World Peace's violent elbow against Oklahoma City Thunder star James Harden is that both players were not only unapologetic about their behavior, but they celebrated it afterward.
World Peace actually had a good laugh about concussing James Harden on Conan O'Brien a week later.
Pittman winked and smiled immediately after putting another player's life in danger, thereby guaranteeing a few thousand hits on YouTube today.
In the Cyber Age, many people crave massive media exposure, and sadly, many will go for it at all costs. The last thing we need is violent athletes taking a relatively small suspension in exchange for coveted worldwide vigilante status.
David Stern needs to take firmer action against on court violence before the NBA develops a " National Vigilante Association" alter ego. While I'm usually not a fan of increased punishment in the name of deterrence, when it comes to flagrant violence, I'm willing to make an exception.
In Dexter Pittman's case, Stern should punish him in a way that sends out a message to other aspiring vigilantes in the league. How about half a season's suspension, no pay, plus Pittman has to do 200 hours of community service and foot Lance Stephenson's medical bills? Such a punishment would act as a true deterrent to this kind of behavior.
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