ZICARELLI: Raptors, rivals forced to remain calm in today’s NBA
When the going gets tough, the last thing Dwane Casey wants to see is his team going soft.
It’s a fine line players must always navigate, somehow trying to resist that urge to retaliate when an opponent is getting under your skin.
On the court, players can’t back down and coaches such as Casey will never discourage his team from turning the other cheek.
“You never tell players to back down from someone when they are in your chest or challenging you, but you have to be smart, be more composed in those situations,” Casey said.
“You never tell a player to back down, but that’s in life. I have no problem at all, but we have to be level-headed. We have to understand that teams are trying to get under our skins, try to be more physical with us. We have to play through hits, play through bumps and not get frustrated and take ourselves out of the game.”
Raptors star DeMar DeRozan has been fined twice in the past week, the most severe slap of the wrist costing him $25,000 US when he was embroiled in a post-game exchange with Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic, who is known for his physical play, the kind of style that annoys opponents.
Serge Ibaka was tossed earlier in the same game when he got into it with James Johnson, the two earning a one-game suspension by the NBA.
Basketball has evolved over the years and no longer do you see the days of bench-clearing incidents or full-out fights. It’s not as physical as it once was when Michael Jordan was forced to get stronger after his Chicago Bulls were mauled by the Pistons, Detroit’s Bad Boys.
Even when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird hooked up in the NBA final, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics crossed the line. Boston’s Kevin McHale delivering that blow on L.A.’s Kurt Rambis best summed up that heated rivalry.
There’s pushing, shoving, name calling, threats, but one does not see fights very often. When they do occur, the league tends to step in.
A year ago, Ibaka and Robin Lopez exchanged punches at the Air Canada Centre during a Raptors win over the Bulls. Not surprisingly, the NBA suspended both players.
The league has been quite clear and emphatic when it comes to personal conduct, whether people like it or not. Players, even though they make millions, don’t like to cut a cheque when a fine is doled out.
And when it comes to interacting with fans in an unruly way, the NBA does not tolerate it either.
Take, for example, Rodney Hood of the Utah Jazz, who got tossed from a game last week in Washington versus the Wizards. As he left the court, Hood slapped the phone from a fans’ hand. For his actions, he was fined $35,000.
When players and coaches criticize an official, they too get fined.
Case in point: The Raptors stage a frantic comeback bid over visiting Golden State. Down the stretch, some calls go against the home side. As is his competitive nature, DeRozan takes exception to those calls that went against Toronto. He airs his feelings and he gets hit with a $15,000 fine.
It’s human nature for players to overreact in the heat of battle. The NBA has been quite firm in what it will allow and won’t.
Late in Monday’s loss in Philadelphia, Kyle Lowry and 76ers rookie Ben Simmons got tossed on an afternoon when both the Sixers and Raps were getting teed up. It was feisty and very testy with Lowry and Simmons exchanging words.
Later in the day, the Houston Rockets and L.A. Clippers lost complete control at the Staples Center. The NBA continues to investigate the late-game and post-game incidents.
An ESPN report, citing anonymous league sources, said several players from Houston headed toward the Clippers’ locker room before they were escorted away by the arena’s security.
Just another day in the NBA.