David Stern Blowing It With Danny Ainge
Or shall I say one contradiction, two contradictions ...
What is taking the great and powerful David Stern so long to do what he should have done milliseconds after Danny Ainge embarrassed the Boston Celtics, the NBA and himself on Monday night in Cleveland with that towel thing?
The guy deserves a two-game suspension. His fine should be nothing less than $10,000, but only if you believe he gets it, which he doesn't. While Ainge told a Boston radio station on Wednesday from one corner of his mouth that "I regret (the towel thing)," he added from the other side of his mouth that "I'm shocked that it's become this big a deal."
(Editor's Note: Danny Ainge was fined $25,000 by the NBA the day after this column was written.)
So make that $35,000, the same amount that Stern gleefully and rightfully fines those for blasting officials during the playoffs. After all, there was Ainge, the general manager of the Boston Celtics, spitting on the so-called "integrity of the game" -- which Stern and other commissioners of other leagues always say they must protect -- with his arrogance at Quicken Loans Arena.
You've seen the replays. The towel thing happened in Game 2 of the Celtics' playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the Celtics sprinting toward a blowout near the end of the third quarter, Ainge forgot (or just couldn't care less) that he is an NBA executive. As a result, he flung a towel high into the air from nearly behind the basket to distract the Cavaliers' J.J. Hickson shooting a free throw.
This towel thing was worthy of Stern saying something in a hurry. Instead, there was nothing from the NBA commissioner. Not a word.
Well, Stern did have league spokesperson Tim Frank announce that, "The situation is under review," but what is there to review? I'm guessing Stern and other NBA officials have video recorders or their equivalent.
If not, I can burn a DVD and ship it overnight.
What's that, you say? Stern was at Quicken Loans Arena Monday night watching it all with Stu Jackson, the NBA's head of discipline?
Given that, along with Stern and Jackson usually saying how they'll discipline their version of the guilty within 24 hours or so, they've joined the naive by suggesting Ainge's towel thing was just a funny thing.
Oh, yeah, it was hilarious to watch the NBA get lucky on Monday by having Ainge not trigger a riot or something.
Remember? Six years ago, the Pacers and the Pistons brawled so violently in Detroit that fans even got involved. It was called the Malice at the Palace, and what already had been a hypersensitive Stern regarding any kind of on-court mess became even more so. That's because he knows the NBA nearly died during the latter 1970s after the combination of drug scandals and ugly confrontations at games.
Therefore, Stern vowed after he became commissioner in 1984 that even a hint of defiance by anybody involved with the league regarding professionalism would be met with a swift and expensive response.
Two words: Mark Cuban.
One moment, the Dallas Mavericks' owner was rushing onto a court to yell at an opposing player for rough play. The next, he was ripping the integrity of referees from his seat at courtside or through cyberspace. And the next, he was screaming at the mother of another opposing player and calling her son "a thug."
At last count, Cuban has been fined 14 times for a total of $1.5 million, and he has been suspended three games. Hold the gasping, though. Given his shrugging in the aftermath of it all, he deserved stiffer penalties than that.
Then you've had Stern's slew of uneven rulings involving players leaving the bench during alterations. According to NBA rules, such an offense will result in an immediate one-game suspension. But it didn't happen to either the Celtics' Kendrick Perkins or the Atlanta Hawks' Marvin Williams after they blatantly violated that rule two years ago during the playoffs. They were reacting to the Celtics' Kevin Garnett swinging a vicious elbow into the everything of the Hawks' Zaza Pachulia.
Garnett even shoved an official, but he wasn't suspended.
In contrast, Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw began to leave the bench area of the Phoenix Suns during the 2007 playoffs, but they quickly returned. They were reacting as peacemakers after teammate Steve Nash was shoved into the scorer's table by the San Antonio Spurs' Robert Horry.
Diaw and Stoudemire were suspended. Such also was Patrick Ewing's fate in 1997, when he took a couple of steps away from the New York Knicks' bench during a playoff game involving the Miami Heat.
Stern is inconsistent, all right. Nothing demonstrates that more than his yawning over this towel thing that could have evolved into a dangerous thing.
I mean, feelings already were raw at Quicken Loans Arena since the home team was atypically raggedy. Plus, those who don't live close to the Charles River rarely view the Celtics as warm and cuddly. Boston has more than a few players that America loves to hate -- ranging from Rasheed Wallace, the king of technicals, to Kevin Garnett, called "a dirty player" this season by the Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah.
Then there is Ainge, the former Celtics player, who is high on the list of sports' Most Despicable Persons when he isn't associated with your team.
Once, Ainge inspired the normally meek Tree Rollins to bite him during a rumble in the middle of a game. Ainge (ahem) accidentally fired an inbounds pass that snapped back the head of opponent Mario Elie after it smashed into Elie's face. Ainge also was so disliked as an NBA head coach that one of his own players (Robert Horry) threw a towel in his face after an argument during a game.
Speaking of towels, let's return to TowelGate. It happened in Cleveland, where folks are just angry, partly because they live in Cleveland. Among other things, they've been known to wear dog masks while barking at those that they just don't care about -- like those from Boston, especially those who are arrogant (as in towel throwing general managers).
The bottom line is that TowelGate should have featured Stern at least using his tongue to whip Ainge in public and in private.
Nothing but hypocrisy.