Being a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies, I have enjoyed the season thus far. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it. Monday night’s loss to the Nuggets notwithstanding, this team is on a roll right now. Their three-team demolition tour last week that culminated in a win over the previously undefeated New York Knicks was a thing of beauty.
Speaking of that game, did anyone else get the same sense of excitement during that first half? Twitter was buzzing with just how much it felt like a playoff game. The intensity, the high level of play, the tenacity….the physicality.
Ah yes, the physicality.
There were 50 fouls called in that game, including 1 flagrant foul. There were also 5 technical fouls in that game — which is a lot for those of you scoring at home. Even if we discount the one that Rasheed Wallace got for just being Sheed, that still leaves 2 apiece for each team. Carmelo Anthony received one, which gives him four for the season and the most in the league. Jerryd Bayless and J.R. Smith also received technicals for their little dust-up that easily could have resulted in ejections for both of them.
That brings to mind the earlier confrontation between Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins that did result in a double ejection.
So…what’s with all of the hostility guys?
Chip and I were discussing what we each perceived as more technicals being called than usual, and we arrived a very similar conclusion. The Grizzlies have 6 players who have had a tech called on them so far this year — 3 of whom have have 2 already.
What if this offseason’s big rule change designed to crack down on flopping has actually reintroduced the physical level of play that fans back in the 80′s and 90′s enjoyed? During the first half of that Grizzlies-Knicks contest, more than one person remarked to me that it felt like a Celtics-Lakers tilt from their heyday in the 80′s. Why? Because players were going at one another, rather than falling like they’d been shot every time contact was made. It resembled basketball instead of an Italian soccer match.
Henry Abbott wrote about whether or not the rule is working today on TrueHoop. His conclusion is that the rule is working — even if in unexpected ways. He also makes note of the fact that many players feel like the refs are not calling legitimate fouls because they are trying not to fall for the antics of floppers.
I think it is a combination of two things that has led to the “hostility” and rising tempers we have witnessed so far in this young season. On the one hand, you have players who might have flopped before that are now standing their ground. That means where players once would have barely made contact at all, they are now running into players quite forcefully — and that doesn’t feel good.
On the other hand, you have refs not calling fouls in situations where they would have felt compelled to blow the whistle in seasons past. That leads to players being annoyed by the added physicality that they know should be called. Eventually, tempers boil over and you see fights or near-fights break out.
Fortunately, nothing serious has happened to this point, but it is something worth keeping an eye on as the season marches on. As long as the refs continue calling things consistently and don’t go back to the “no blood, no foul” days of the mid-90′s where the Knicks and Heat made playoff basketball almost gladiatorial in nature, I think we’re in for a very entertaining season.