Memo to the Warriors: If you want to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs, tone down the attitude.
And yes, I do mean you, Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson.
I don’t buy their defense that they can’t change because their emotions are what make them outstanding players. In fact, Warriors coach Don Nelson disputed that when he said, “The only player who can stop Stephen Jackson is Stephen Jackson. He’s a terrific player, but when he can’t control himself, he becomes less than average.”
Think about some of the great players of the past: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson … going back to the early greats such as Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. Not one of them played out of control.
No, what we’re seeing is the manifestation of the modern pro athletes, who feel they have to give a performance. We saw the worst of it here in the Bay Area, as Terrell Owens started his acting out with the 49ers.
In contrast, his predecessor, Jerry Rice, was the ultimate professional.
When he caught a touchdown pass, he just handed the ball to the referee.
“Act as if you’ve been there before,” he told other receivers.
The NFL has adopted rules to penalize players for taunting. But it is the NBA that can really showcase the overly dramatic because there are so many opportunities for spectacular plays. Unfortunately, the close proximity of fans to the action can also lead to problems. Jackson, of course, was involved in the Nov. 19, 2004, brawl when Indiana Pacers players went into the stands after an abusive Detroit Pistons fan. Ron Artest was suspended for 73 games, Jackson for 30.
Since then, the NBA has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for players. Some of it is ridiculous. Players can draw technical fouls without even saying a word. Rick Barry, who complained about every foul ever called on him, wouldn’t have lasted a quarter under this system. Not surprisingly, under this policy, Davis was only one technical away from being suspended during the playoffs.
The crackdown on player violence, though, is very welcome. Basketball has always been a much more physical game than is obvious to those seated any distance from the floor, but it’s gotten out of hand lately. Not just with the Warriors. San Antonio’s Robert Horry was suspended for two games for a flagrant foul on Phoenix’s Steve Nash in the fourth game of their playoff series.
But it is the Warriors who have become the poster boys for trouble in the NBA. They complain that the league is watching them too closely, but who can blame the NBA? Davis, who had said earlier that he knew his technical foul situation and wouldn’t do anything to get suspended, nonetheless leveled Derek Fisher late in Game 4 of the Utah series — and then called Fisher “my good friend.” What would he do to an enemy?
Davis and Jackson are great players, but they need to cool it. Maybe they can take some anger management classes in the offseason. The Warriors obviously need to get some help up front for Andris Biedrins but even that won’t be enough if Davis and Jackson can’t control their emotions. C’mon, guys. Let your talent — not your temperament — be the showcase.