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Keep Your Eye on the Lakers and Rockets, Forget About Manny Ramirez

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IMay 7, 2009

Oh dear God, everybody run for your fallout shelter, because Manny Ramirez just tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Looks like everyone in Los Angeles really wants the Lakers to win that National Basketball Association title this year.

I mean, I understand La La Land needed the thuggery from last night's NBA playoff game to fade into the background, but I can think of several less drastic ways to achieve that end than having the most popular baseball player the city's seen in a long time jump in front of a public-relations bullet.

Hey, give Manny credit—it worked.

No chattering heads on the airwaves will be preoccupied with Derek Fisher launching himself elbow/head-first into Luis Scola.  Nor will there be as much fuss made about yet another wayward Kobe Bryant elbow that mysteriously found Ron Artest's throat.

Poor Kobe, his elbows just have the worst luck!

Ironically, I'll step into the void despite every iota of my being pulling me to rejoice through my keyboard about the Manny revelation.

Someone has to because the situation in last night's game against the Houston Rockets was utterly insane.  I'd say surreal except it wasn't really—that implies it's a warped reality when, in fact, the game was a perfect example of plain, old vanilla reality in the NBA.

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Probably professional sports in general, but that's for another day.

I'm talking hypocrisy, a double standard, or whatever you want to call it.

After Fisher turned himself into a human missile, Doug Collins (who is ATROCIOUS) was actually lauding Derek for being so tough.  Excuse me?  Since when is a cheap shot proof-positive of toughness?

Make no mistake about it—that was a cheap shot.

Fisher saw Scola coming up to set a hard screen, knew the Argentine center wouldn't be expecting an attack, and took advantage of his element of surprise.  Additionally, the LA guard tried to lead with his elbow (a legitimate weapon since it's pointed bone covered in a thin layer of skin).

It was a premeditated, non-basketball move and meant to damage (not hurt) the opposing player.  That is the definition of dirty.

Yes, Derek Fisher is half Luis Scola's size.  Yes, Scola flopped.  Yes, Fisher got the worse end of the collision.  Baby, it's all about intent.

And the intent was malicious.

We're supposed to excuse Fisher, though, because he's a sweetheart off the court, a selfless man despite dealing with some very serious and devastating personal issues.  I don't dispute Fisher's off-court persona nor would I disagree that is his more important legacy in the grand scheme of things.

But, on the court, Derek Fisher has always been an annoying little pest, prone to dirty play that gets endorsed as gritty by clowns like Collins because he's a Good Guy.

That's weak and I'm not buying it.

Which shifts the cross hairs to Kobe and, by reference, Artest.

Ron Artest is nobody's ideal defendant—the man is a living, breathing, dictionary definition of the word volatile.  Seriously, I'm not a small man and I can hold my own against most aggressors, but I'd be terrified to be anywhere near the guy while he's in this state.

My man is jacked and fighting back his anger or frustration or demons or whatever so hard, he's literally snarling and twitching.  Or maybe he's just got cotton-mouth from having played an NBA postseason game—entirely possible.

Either way, he looks ready to explode and for good reason.  Ron Artest got royally screwed by the refs on Wednesday night.

I'm not talking about the ejection.  You can't go rampaging around the court and push up into the opposition's face like that.  Sorry Ronnie, at that point, you gotta go.

Before that though?  Holy Lord, how do you give a guy a foul for catching a 'bow in the windpipe?

I get that Artest is one of the baddest Bad Guys the Association has seen in a while and not merely because he went feral in the Palace of Auburn Hills.  I get that Bryant is one of two faces for the NBA (LeBron James being the other).  I also understand the duo was pushing and shoving for position under the hoop.

What I don't understand is how throwing elbows in an upward and backward motion has become a basketball move.  Bryant (like Fisher before him) wasn't swinging his elbows to clear out and create space—he was using his right one as an offensive weapon by borrowing and abbreviating a spinning elbow from mixed martial arts.

In retaliation for good, hard banging under the boards.

And they whistled Artest!  Who, shockingly, then went ballistic.

In the wake of this, Collins and (unfortunately) our friends over at FOX Sports are actually trying to convince us this is somehow an admirable thing.  Somehow a measure of the Lake Show's new-found resolve and something to be repeated if they know what's good for 'em.

It's just ridiculous.

If it were a guy like Artest on the other side of either elbow, you'd hear hew and cry from these same people about how such malignancy should be routed from the NBA.  About how there's no place for it in the game of basketball.

The high road would be bumper to bumper.

How can you condone, even applaud, the behavior from one perpetrator while denouncing it from the other?  That's expecting some very unstable people to recognize the difference and realize such play is off limits to them while simultaneously accepting they must be on the receiving end with a smile.

Anyone else see a problem with that?

My point is not to imply Fisher and Bryant are evil incarnate (for that matter, neither are guys like Ron) and should be punished as such.  Quite the opposite.

I don't think either wanted to seriously injure his target nor do I think it's such a big deal they were trying to cause damage outside the parameters of the rulebook.

The NBA is a big boys' game and tempers flare.  Sometimes the heat gets too much and you see cheap shots like the ones last night.  It happens and to the best of us—a moment of malicious intent is just that, a moment.

But Good Guys and superstars have 'em too.

And you cannot makes excuses for—let alone praise—the conduct from one guy, then slap another for the exact same.  Not if you hope to be taken seriously.

**www.pva.org**

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