The NBA handed down a gentle two-game suspension to Chris Paul before the Rockets game on Sunday, which surprised Carmelo Anthony.
The NBA has always been very careful about their image and the message it sends.
Back in 2005, the NBA became the first major sports league to have a dress code. The baggy shirts and pants that were in style at the time were traded in for sports coats and dress shoes. In hindsight, it was a good move by the NBA, because the mandatory dress code made the players look more like professional athletes.
The dress code was also created in part to clean up the image of the league after the Malace at the Palace, possibly the worst night in NBA history, which took place just a year earlier.
In 2006, just two years after that terrible night in Detroit, the Nuggets and Knicks had a brawl in Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony, who was the league’s leading scorer at the time, received the harshest punishment of the seven players that were suspended and missed 15 games. J.R. Smith and Nate Robinson were suspended 10 games each for their involvement in the fight. The league also fined both teams an unprecedented $500,000.
The league was clearly trying to send a message that any brawl or fights with punches thrown would not be tolerated. David Stern, the commissioner of the NBA at the time, told ESPN that he wanted to eliminate fighting from the league after the Nuggets-Knicks skirmish.
“We have set up the goal of eliminating fighting from our game. We haven’t eliminated it completely.”
“I was very disappointed. Clearly, we’re not getting through or players in certain circumstances just don’t want to be restrained. I would suggest that those players will not havelong careers in the NBA.”
David Stern’s decision to over-penalize players in the Nuggets-Knicks fight in an effort to send a message to the rest of the league worked wonders. We haven’t seen a brawl like that in the last 12 years, until the Rockets-Clippers fight on Saturday night of course.
On Sunday, just hours before the Rockets tipped off on the same Staples Center floor, but this time against the Clippers, the NBA announced their punishment for the players involved. Brandon Ingram was suspended for four games, Rajon Rondo will miss three games and Chris Paul is out for just two games. Not too shabby.
Carmelo Anthony was surprised that the players, including his teammate and best buddy Chris Paul, received such a light punishment, according to USA Today’s Martin Rogers.
“I’m actually a little shocked at the number of games that they are missing.”
“It actually works in our favor to be honest with you. I have seen it go 10-15 games before – I was the culprit of that years ago. But to see CP – I don’t want to be speaking on CP – but to see CP only get two games … I didn’t know what to expect to be honest. Nothing surprises me with the NBA anymore, nothing surprises me. So for him to only get two games is good.”
Maybe the players received a lesser suspension because the league hasn’t seen a brawl to this magnitude in over a decade. Or maybe it’s because the league’s image has soared to such colossal heights that the commissioner doesn’t see a need to really lay down the hammer. Maybe it’s because the commissioner of today’s NBA is Adam Silver and not David Stern. Maybe it’s because in this social media era, a fight like this will spread like wild-fire on Twitter and bring in extra clicks.
Or maybe it is just a combination of everything.
Whatever the reason is for the NBA’s relatively light punishment for the biggest fight in years, as Carmelo said, it works in Houston’s favor. The Rockets are currently 1-2 and could be 1-3 if they don’t play better defense and clean up the glass against Utah on Wednesday as Paul serves the last of his two-game suspension.
Hopefully the Rockets can put this behind them and get back in the win column.