|Monday, March 17
Updated: March 18, 5:14 PM ET
Davis should be punished for showing up Jazz
By David Aldridge
Special to ESPN.com
If the Cleveland Cavaliers don't have the courage to suspend Ricky Davis, the league should. But the Cavs should do it.
First, any statistical achievement is only noteworthy in the context of the game being played. If your last basket gets you 50 points -- and also wins the game -- the 50 is meaningful. And it's OK to score 50 if your team loses, as long as those 50 were scored during an honest attempt to win. That's why Kobe Bryant's streak of scoring 40 points started to smell a little toward the end, when it seemed obvious he was firing up rocks just to keep it going. In Davis's case, there were six seconds left in a game where the Cavs were up by 25. If Davis had shot at Utah's basket on purpose, and missed, it would have merely been bush league. To shoot at his own basket unveils a whole new level of bush previously undiscovered by the world's top archaeologists.
Second, the Cavs have been fighting the perception all year that this season has been nothing but a sham, a transparent attempt to dump games in order to secure LeBron James in the lottery. They insist that that is not the case. It is, to me, therefore terribly inconsistent to do nothing when one of your players commits a sin like this. It is tantamount to saying that the players are in charge and can do anything they want. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what people around the league have been saying about Cleveland for much of the season.
Third, Davis's action was a slap in the face to those who have proceeded him, to the Russells and Chamberlains and Robertsons and Magics and Birds and Jordans. It wasn't me, but Utah's 21-year-old guard, DeShawn Stevenson who quite eloquently pointed this out after the game.
"There's too many people who have done too much for this sport to act like that," said Stevenson, who blasted Davis with a cross-body block after Davis's act. "This is the NBA, and you've got to be professional, and that's not professional. Yes, I think it was disrespect to the game and disrespect to me. You've got little kids looking up to him and to see him do that isn't right."
Out of the mouths of babes ...
(Of course, Jerry Sloan had his own adult take. "DeShawn fouled him, and I would have fouled him, too," Sloan said afterward. "I would have knocked him on his ass." God, I wish time travel was possible and Davis had tried that when Sloan was playing, or Norm Van Lier, or my ESPN colleague Fred Carter, or John Brisker.)
Fourth, Davis's action showed a lack of knowledge of the rules. Rule 5, Section 1 of the league's official rules states clearly, "It is a violation for a player to attempt a field goal at an opponent's basket. The opposing team will be awarded the ball at the free throw line extended." I'm not saying Davis or any other player should have such minutae committed to memory, but they should have a sense, after tens of thousands of hours of playing ball, of what's right and what's wrong.
By the way, this is the same guy who, just five days ago, fouled Miami's Mike James with four-tenths of a second left, in a 75-all game, with James fading away and shooting a desperation three. James hit two of the three free throws, and the Heat won 77-75.
The league should step in, if only to right a wrong it committed a few years ago in a similar circumstance. In 1996, the Magic were in the process of blowing out Detroit, 113-91, when guard Anthony Bowie was one assist shy of a triple-double. But Orlando called a timeout with 1.4 seconds left so that it could set up one more play. Detroit's coach at the time, Doug Collins, ordered his team not to guard the play at all so that Bowie could get his gift assist and phony triple. When Bowie tapped the ball to a teammate, who then scored, there were three-tenths of a second left. But a disgusted Collins and his team were already walking off the floor, opting not to extend the charade any further.
But it was Collins that got fined $5,000 for "unsportsmanlike conduct."
The league has a second chance to get it right this time. I still hope the Cavs take care of this themselves. It is Davis, not Stevenson, not Sloan, who committed the unsportsmanlike act here. It is Davis who made the hard work of an NBA player into folly. It is Davis who needs to be shown that there are lines that just can't be crossed once you cross the lines and go onto the floor. Not because he's a bad kid, but because he's a young one, and he needs somebody to show him, by barring him from playing what a terrible thing he did.
There are lots of adults in the Cleveland front office. Time for them to stand up and be counted.
David Aldridge, who covers the NBA for ESPN, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.