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The NBA Playoffs: Where Apologies Happen

Matt Petersen@@TheMattPetersenCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

BOSTON - MAY 12:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic reacts after he is called for a foul in the second half against the Boston Celtics in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden May 12, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Magic 92-88.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

"I'm sorry."

"Please forgive me."

"We talked about that."

These are the words dominating the headlines of the NBA Playoffs over the last week.

Compelling? No. Amusing? At times. Distracting? Without question.

It's a shame the bone-headed decisions of individuals (including those off the court) are distracting players and fans from what this year's playoffs are offering.

The NBA world should be talking about the Nuggets' return to relevancy, the Celtics' refusal to follow the prescribed "it's ok to roll over when you lose your franchise player" reaction, or the revelation that the Lakers aren't as invincible as previously believed.

Here's a look at the incidents, individuals and the offended reactions and apologetic responses that resulted:

PLAYER VS. FAN AND HIS DAD

The Offender: Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Boston Celtics forward

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The Offended: Ernest Provetti, Magic fan and father of the Victim

The Victim: Nicholas, son of the Offended

The Incident: After hitting the game-winning jumper in Game Four, Davis immediately turned and ran while celebrating vehemently. During his celebration Davis pushed young courtside fan Nicholas with one hand while running past the young Magic fan.

The Reaction: Provetti was quick to contact the league offices and demand that Davis apologize for his actions, stating the Davis had "no regard for fans' personal safety."

The Apology: Davis was quick to issue his "I'm sorry," stating, "If I've hurt anybody or if I've done any harm to anybody, please forgive me because my intentions were just harmless."

The Verdict: While Davis may sport the moniker, Provetti was truly the "Big Baby" in this case. No regard for fans' personal safety? Please.

Obviously Provetti's never experienced the rush of a game-winning shot, especially as a doubted fill-in for a future Hall-of-Fame forward.

While Davis probably would've been better off not touching a fan in the first place, this was a case of a fan trying to make something out of what amounted to nothing.

OWNER VS. PLAYER AND HIS MOM

The Offender: Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

The Offended: Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets forward and son of the Victim

The Victim: Lydia Moore, mother of the Offended

The Incident: According to sources, after the Nuggets' Game Three win over the Mavericks, a Dallas fan yelled the Nuggets were "thugs." Cuban reportedly then turned to the nearby Moore and said, "That includes your son."

The Reaction: Well of course, the entire sports world was aware of the incident within the hour, prompting outrage from commentators, fans, and of course, Martin, who does not seem like the kind of son whose mom you'd feel comfortable verbally abusing.

With Cuban being the antagonist, the episode was appropriately magnified, as is anything having to do with the outgoing billionaire.

The Apology: As posted on Cuban's blog: "No one takes more abuse and gets more threats on the road than I do. So I know exactly how it feels. I've also had my family and friends spit on at games in this series.

So I know how unpleasant that is as well. It's a dirty secret that all arenas need to do a better job of protection for visiting team fans, particularly during the playoffs.

"So at this point I would like to apologize to you and your mom KMart for my comment. I should have not said anything and I was wrong. Hopefully you will accept the apology and we can move on."

The Verdict: Cuban was 100 percent wrong on several fronts:

  1. His incredibly immature and unprofessional comment to a visiting player's mother on Mother's Day.
  2. His apology was given on an online blog, effectively maximizing the "grandioseness" (only a made-up but legit-sounding word can express this correctly) of his own involvement while minimizing the sincerity of an apology from offender to offended.
  3. The actual apology is almost nullifed by Cuban turning his attention from what he did wrong to what he's suffered through at opponenets' arenas. While it may or may not have been unintentional, those comments distract from the actual apology and make a feeble attempt to justify why these wrongs happen.

In short, Cuban should have told Martin and his mother in person, without any preamble or explanation, "I was wrong, and I apologize."

PLAYER VS. COACH

The Offender: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic center

The Offended: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic center

The Victim: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic center

The Incident: That's not a typo in any of the three previously mentioned categories. Howard was offended after feeling he didn't get enough touches at the end of the Magic's Game Five loss to Boston.

He offended by calling out coach Stan Van Gundy in post-game interviews, questioning his substitution patterns as well as his reluctance to make him option number one through the game. And obviously, he feels he is the victim of the aforementioned decision making by Van Gundy.

The Reaction: Rather than fight fire with fire and respond to Howard's claims publicly, Van Gundy met with his All-Star center privately before a team practice so they could talk out their differences. This is where the experience gap between a 23-year-old superstar and a 49-year-old coach really shows.

The Apology: Howard diffused his dissatisfaction by stating: "Getting the ball shouldn't be a big issue for me. There's more ways to dominate the game than scoring. Me and coach, we talked about that. I just can't let my frustrations get to the point where I'll say anything."

The Verdict: Mixed, but leaning in favor of Van Gundy. Howard is absolutely right in that he should be getting the ball more on the offensive end, especially in late-game situations. Like he said in his effusive post-game comments: "You got a dominant player, let him be dominant."

The place and timing of his comments were poorly chosen, however. Van Gundy handled it beautifully by taking his still-growing superstar aside to talk things out privately.

He even encouraged Howard to be more adamant in demanding the ball, showing that there are factors within Howard's control, including defense and rebounding.

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