A mad May in the NBA

Retrospectively, it’s somewhat humorous. The most madness in March entailed watching the NCAA selection show and wondering not if GW would get in, but whom and where they would play. Also, a columnist from a newspaper in Connecticut wrote a column about Jim Nantz and his first tournament as a play-by-play announcer. Jim spoke about how his March would be “mad” because after the tournament, he’d fly directly to Augusta, Ga., for the Masters.

My March was pretty mad too. I got a call one day from a friend inviting me to go to the airing of “Pardon the Interruption.” “PTI” is ESPN’s popular debate show featuring Washington Post columnists Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Everyday, the columnists face off on a plethora of contemporary issues in sports. Audiences are captivated with their screaming and generally, what they say goes. Zionists side with Thomas Freidman, conservatives worship Robert Novak and sports writers love Kornheiser and Wilbon.

A little known fact is that the show, which airs every weekday from 5:30-6:00 p.m., is filmed right here in the District. Last month I had the distinct honor of being an invited guest of the program. So I put on my best Polo and hopped a cab to the studio on Massachusetts Avenue. After the half-hour show was filmed, I approached the intimidating Wilbon (he’s a lot bigger in person) and started to talk sports. My biggest fear was sounding like an idiot, and that was the first thing I did. After telling him that I thought NBA play was declining, he scoffed. He looked down at me and said that if you put the quickest-shooting player in the NCAA against Ben Wallace, he would not be able to get a shot off. He said Kwame Brown can sit at the three-point line and drain 20 three-pointers in a row.

How ironic. In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Wilbon praised the suspension of the 6-foot-11 Washington Wizards forward say during the playoffs is inexcusable. Brown was Michael Jordan’s number one overall draft pick in the 2001 draft. This season he averaged seven points per game and has made some progress. After an injury, Brown’s weight jumped up to 283. On his track back, it dropped back down to 263 but still was booed when he got on the MCI Center court.

Wait. The guy was booed on his own home court? Kwame has been the lone blunder in a storybook Washington Wizards season and he deserves what may actually deserve what he has coming to him. It would be a poor message to the greater sports community if Ernie Grunfeld kept him on the squad.

What has been largely forgotten during this debate is that Brown is a prime example for why the NBA should put an age minimum in the league. Grunfeld told The Post on March 22 that the added pressure of being a number one overall pick coming out of high school was a lot to deal with. Get over it, Kwame. Your time in this city is up. If you don’t have hometown support, what do you have?

Obviously not love for the game. If a player skips practice, in my book, he’s done. Eddie Jordan and Grunfeld are too smart to let a cancer such as Brown drag down a team that is on an upswing.

May madness took a turn for the strange when Jeff Van Gundy entered the arena. Hey, he coached in New York; there must be something strange about him. Van Gundy accused postseason referees of targeting Yao Ming. He cited a referee friend, who is not working the postseason, saying that the league’s officials were motivated by a protest by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to clamp down on the 7-foot-5 center.

The camaraderie between referees is of Order of the Hippo proportion, which makes skeptics doubt the fact someone said anything.

Commissioner David Stern fined him $100,000, the largest fine ever to a coach, for those comments. Stern said if his behavior continues in this manner, he’s gone from the league.

Wait! This madness has to stop. A coach is being fined because he expressed his opinion? Freedom of speech is a tenet of American culture and fining a coach two years worth of GW tuition is a bit excessive.

During the GW basketball season, it was clear that referees were ignoring fouls on junior Pops Mensah-Bonsu. There were also times when coach Karl Hobbs expressed his feelings from the bench. He was not fined and rightfully so. A coach is also a human being, believe it or not, and they are entitled to freedom of speech.

The allegations and implications are somewhat preposterous. If Van Gundy reveals his source, he will lose his job. If Van Gundy doesn’t, he could be banned for life. The name Van Gundy may now be said with the same disdain baseball fans say Pete Rose.

So maybe Wilbon was right. The entertainment value provided in the NBA surely surpasses NCAA basketball. Well, I guess Bobby Knight never said anything controversial anyway.

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