Nerves tend to fray in the NBA playoffs. Tempers flare, old rivalries reignite and new ones are forged in the tense win-or-go-home environment. The extra testiness is understandable, really; these guys are trying to make names for themselves, secure playoff bonuses and chase down rings.
But it sure seems like there has been an unusual number of dust-ups (both of the physical and social media variety) so far.
Notably, Jordan Crawford didn't let a DNP-CD stop him from mouthing off to Carmelo Anthony after the New York Knicks' embarrassing Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics. Feuds between players aren't all that unusual, though. And Crawford wasn't the only chatty player to stir things up from the sidelines.
What's been especially strange is the way members of the media have been getting involved.
In a layered back-and-forth feud between the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets, broadcaster Scott Hastings has butted in, calling Warriors coach Mark Jackson "classless" for his gripes about the Nuggets' rough play.
And in Chicago, Bulls beat writer Joe Cowley told the world that the Bulls felt the Brooklyn Nets were "gutless."
With all of the verbal shots being thrown in the first round, just imagine how crazy things will get as the postseason rolls on.
The most benign of the first-round feuds comes from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. The Bulls beat writer reported during halftime of Game 4 that the Chicago players actually wanted to tangle with the Nets because they believed the team to be "gutless" and "heartless."
Whether or not Cowley's sources were legitimate, his words made their way to the Nets locker room, where P.J. Carlesimo used them to motivate his club before Game 5—which Brooklyn won, by the way.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! rips Cowley apart pretty thoroughly for his lack of analysis and reputation for bluster, and it's also worth mentioning that no Bulls player has legitimized the report by owning up to those inflammatory statements.
What's interesting is that the Nets didn't immediately fly off the handle when Carlesimo played the tape of Cowley's comments. Deron Williams told Roderick Boone of Newsday, "we laughed about it."
Apparently, the Brooklyn players recognized a journalist trying to stir the pot and brushed him off. Good for the Nets.
I guess that proves that even if they don't have guts or hearts, they've got ears and brains.
In the heat of the moment, Russell Westbrook was hopping mad.
Patrick Beverley had just attempted to steal the ball from the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard before he could call a timeout, clipping his knee in the attempt. Westbrook hit the deck, popped up and pounded his hand on the scorer's table.
He was clearly in pain and even more clearly incensed.
In the aftermath, there was plenty of discussion about whether Beverley's play was a dirty one, and thankfully, everyone arrived at the reasonable conclusion that it wasn't. But when news broke that Westbrook was out for the remainder of the postseason, things escalated quickly.
A few overzealous nuts have been getting after Beverley on Twitter and even making death threats, according to ESPN. Part of that might have to do with the lack of remorse Beverley showed in the immediate aftermath of the play, but most of it stems from the sort of irrational fandom that unfortunately dots the NBA landscape.
Westbrook is out, Beverley hasn't changed his aggressive style and now the series is tighter than expected after the Rockets took Game 5.
What started as a beef between two competitive players has turned into a much bigger deal.
Royce White's anxiety disorder has kept him out for his entire rookie season, and it's both irresponsible and unfair to bring in any reference to that mental illness when touching on his surprising beef with Kevin Durant.
But it's also irresponsible and unfair to give him a pass for sounding like a mouthy dope.
After the Rockets' Game 5 win over OKC, White tweeted at Durant:
And when everyone with half a brain responded with some obvious version of "at least KD's on the court," White kept going:
It's ALOT of tough B-BALL fans on twitter... Lol! I'm a spectator right now, I'll say whatever the f**k I want. Swing when you see me. 💪😏— Royce White (@Highway_30) May 2, 2013
Two things can be equally true, and in this case, those two things are as follows:
1. Royce White has a mental illness that shouldn't be the subject of derision.
2. White really, really, really wants attention and he's acting like a kid to get it.
At least Durant hasn't dignified the comments with a response.
---UPDATE: Friday, May 3 at 6:35 p.m. ET---
Upon being asked about White's one-way Twitter war against him, Durant responded to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle with the following:
I haven’t seen him on the bench. He hasn’t played against us so I’m not worried about guys that’s not even in our series. Ain’t that the guy that can’t, that’s afraid to fly? I wish him the best. If I see him next year, I’ll let him know who we are.
I don’t get fired up off stuff. I get fired up just playing this game, enjoying the game. Like I said, I wish him the best. I wish he could have played and really felt this intensity for a playoff game, but I guess watching on TV is better.
Apparently unable to leave well enough alone, White hopped right back onto Twitter in an effort to smooth things over:
@kdtrey5... Don't let the media hype it, I'm just a anxious, hippy, humanist. I don't even play. I meant no harm, You're an amazing player!— Royce White (@Highway_30) May 3, 2013
Consider the beef squashed...until White inevitably pipes up again.
Now this is the kind of beef that the playoffs should bring about.
The words between Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph have been few and far between—at least in the media. But their on-court exchanges have been intensely violent and almost shocking to watch.
Hardly a play has gone by in the first-round series between the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers in which the two power forwards haven't collided. They've sought each other out on every trip down the floor, barreling into one another and fighting for position constantly.
In fact, it's sort of amazing that a full-on fist fight hasn't broken out.
There have been technical fouls and some testy moments, but both players know that physicality is just part of playoff basketball.
And if Griffin was hoping for some sympathy for his sprained right ankle, he certainly didn't expect to get any from the dismissive Randolph.
Really, it's refreshing to see two players handling things on the court and not during press conferences. Kudos to them for sharing a rivalry that features more elbows than sound bites.
Speaking of elbows, J.R. Smith dished one out to Jason Terry that had viewers of Game 3 checking for chipped teeth through the TV screen.
The blow was something of a physical culmination of an ongoing battle between the league's newest Sixth Man of the Year and the guy who won it in 2008-09. Smith got suspended sat out Game 4, but didn't miss an opportunity to fire another at Terry.
J.R. Smith played dumb. The Knicks guard had just been asked about the performance of Jason Terry in Game 4, a performance that yielded Boston’s final 9 points of the game, in overtime.
That would be the same Jason Terry who goaded Smith into elbowing him in the face in Game 3, an offense for which Smith received a one-game suspension.
“Who?” Smith said. “I don’t even know who that is.”
It didn’t stop there.
Asked another question about Terry, Smith kept up the charade.
“Who?” he said again. “Who is that?”
Well, after Smith laid an egg in Game 5, shooting just 3-of-14 from the field in New York's 92-86 loss, he probably wishes he'd stayed silent.
Terry hit five threes in that game and was integral to Boston's improbable victory. After the game, the Celtics veteran got the last word...at least until Smith gets his next opportunity to talk into a microphone.
Royce White wasn't the only player to start a beef from the sidelines.
Jordan Crawford ran his mouth after Game 5 against the Knicks, apparently directing some choice words toward Carmelo Anthony. Nobody has been able to get a definitive account of exactly what Crawford said, but there's plenty of speculation floating around that it had something to do with dredging up the controversy between Kevin Garnett and Anthony from earlier in the year.
Crawford hadn't played a minute in Game 5, and that fact wasn't lost on Anthony's wife, LaLa Vazquez, who zinged him on Instagram,
There was already enough bad blood between the Knicks and Celtics, but Crawford's juvenile antics might have added a little more. And really, it seems like that's what he was trying to do.
Unfortunately for him, just about everyone views him as something of a clown. So it's possible that his chatter will be dismissed more quickly than it would be coming from someone with a little more cache in the league.
Still, he's gone back to the sore spot that riled Anthony up before, hoping to bait him into doing something foolish again. Only this time, Melo took the high road, opting to brush off Crawford's comments instead of seeking out a confrontation.
This feud has the potential to go up a notch, but for now, it's only the second craziest of the playoffs so far.
The beef between Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson and half of the Denver Nuggets organization earns the crown for a couple of reasons.
First, it just won't die. Longevity is key here.
And second, it just keeps getting new layers.
Initially, Jackson was looking out for Stephen Curry by drawing attention to what he believed to be dirty plays by the Nuggets. He felt Curry (and his ankle, in particular) was being targeted by Denver players in an effort to either knock the point guard off of his rhythm, or even worse, knock him out of the series.
There was something to Jackson's complaints, but he was mostly just trying to get an edge with the refs for the remainder of the series.
But then Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee disagreed, calling the Warriors the dirty team. To be fair, it's hard to look past Andrew Bogut's two-handed shove on Faried when considering the validity of the Nuggets' retort.
After that, Nuggets broadcaster Scott Hastings called Jackson "classless," a strange term to use for a guy who was simply trying to carve out an advantage by getting the officials to watch out for his best player. Also, it's a little ridiculous (but lots of fun) whenever "unbiased" media personalities go to bat for the home team.
Jackson wouldn't let it go, either, firing back at Hastings on Thursday.
Oh, and just for kicks, George Karl has chimed in, coining a new term to describe Warriors rookie Festus Ezeli. It wasn't flattering, and believe it or not, Jackson took issue.
And while neither side seems interested in shutting up, the NBA weighed in, probably hoping to quiet things down by raiding Jackson's wallet:
Mark Jackson fined $25,000 for making comments in an attempt to influence the officiating in GS-DEN series, the NBA announces.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 2, 2013
Until this series ends, it seems like the war of words will continue (albeit more carefully now), which is fine because the back-and-forth exchange has been entertaining and added spice to an already exciting series.
Keep talking, fellas; the NBA could use a new rivalry.