As I sat last night, riveted to game five of the Suns/Lakers series, I could not get the idea out of my head that this Lakers team may be the most utterly unlikeable team that I've ever seen. Full disclosure, I'm a Celtics fan and I'm rooting for Steve Nash who I've done charity work with. But watching Derek Fisher flop like a soccer player or Gasol and Kobe complain every time they miss a shot leaves me wanting to see the purple and yellow go down.
I laughed as Ron Artest took two terrible shots within five seconds, helping the Suns mount an unbelievable comeback. You have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and a hot Derek Fisher on your team and you, Ron Artest, decide to take not one but two outside shots.
Of course, all was forgotten when Artest scored the game winner off a Kobe Bryant airball but after the game Artest was not remorseful about his insanely stupid shots, basically saying that if he was in the same situation again, he would still have taken them because "a player has to play."
As maddening as this unfair end was, it was fitting for a league that produces an incredibly unlikeable product yet somehow always manages to deliver on entertainment value.
To be fair, I'm sure many people feel the same way about my beloved Celtics that I do about the evil Lakers. Paul Pierce's flair for unneeded drama, Kendrick Perkins' well documented tantrums and Kevin Garnett's borderline psychosis certainly do not endear themselves to any non-Celtics fans.
It really is a shame because what these players do on the court is nothing short of amazing. But the whining, complaining and flopping has grown too tiresome.
And the sad part is, it doesn't have to be like this. It is pretty simple to fix -- simply implement a no tolerance policy for whining. The minute Kobe throws his arms up in anger, technical. The instant Gasol turns around to complain, technical. And as soon as Kendrick Perkins goes into one of his long walks, technical.
It works in all levels of amateur sports where athletes know that they cannot argue with refs. Yes, the dynamic at the pro level is considerably different. But the main problem is not how much money the players are making, it's that they know they can get away with it.
That is what is so maddening about Perkins second technical in game five. He was doing nothing different than he does after almost every foul called on him. Something no different than what Kobe or Pau does after every play they are involved with that they don't agree with. Yet at that moment, the referee considered Perkins sins egregious.
The NBA has many arbitrary rules that players simply accept because they know they have no choice. For example, players know they cannot leave their bench area during a fight. While yes, they do violate this at times, in general this is something they abide by and accept.
It really is just an expectation level and if the NBA did a better job of setting expectations, they'd have a much better product. Imagine Kobe knows that the minute he starts complaining he runs the risk of getting a technical. He'd certainly think twice about it and would likely shut his big trap. Right now he knows he's got to go pretty far before any ref would dream of teeing him up.
It's like in baseball where managers know they can't argue about balls and strikes. They still do it from time to time, but when they get ejected they absolutely know they deserved it.
The NBA could benefit by having a similar edict. Players are not allowed to argue fouls -- period.
Do you think anyone would really miss seeing their favorite star complain to the refs?