Good News! The Lakers Aren’t Dirty! They Just Don’t Care If They Kill You On Accident!

Reckless (adj.): utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action; without caution; careless (usually fol. by of): to be reckless of danger.

Earlier in the season, I noted that the Andrew Bynum foul on Gerald Wallace deserved a suspension. Not because Bynum was trying to hurt anyone. He wasn’t.  At all.  The thought didn’t enter his mind. That’s the problem. It was a reckless play by the biggest guy on the court. When you have that kind of size, and that kind of speed, I’m of the opinion that as a professional, you need to have control of your body in order to avoid situations that could endanger the career and lives of your peers. Like, oh, say, internal bleeding.

But no! The world cried! It was just unfortunate! The injury should have no bearing! It was just a freak accident! Besides, Gerald Wallace has a history of injuries! Sure, none of them fall under the severity of internal freaking bleeding, but hey! Stone’s throw! What, you want to wussify basketball! This is just good, hard, playoff basketball! You don’t want to take a foul, don’t come in the lane!

A few days later, LeBron James went baseline against the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum made a play on the ball. He had no regard for the results of his attempt on the ball. The result was him throwing LeBron to the ground. LeBron landed hard. He got up, because, um, the man’s a tank. But since that point, I’ve noticed LeBron focusing on his perimeter game, and he hardly attempted to drive inside until the fourth quarter of the 2nd matchup.

I’d noticed Ariza before. Ariza is a true Hustle Junkie. Nothing but foot on the pedal. The kind of guy you love if he’s on your side. Heck, with all the dunks and breakaway steals, most people in the general NBA loved his resurgence too. But I kept noticing that he’d dive for balls through players. He’d go for fouls with arms fully extended, often making a lot of contact. I mean, it was fun to watch. Seriously. But I kept thinking, “wow, that’s dangerous.” Again. And again.

Fernandez will most likely (thank God) be okay. And maybe it was just an isolated incident. A freak play. By no means was it dirty. Ariza wasn’t trying to club him in the head. The problem is not that Ariza meant to hurt him. It’s that he didn’t care if he did. It wasn’t dirty. It was reckless.

I’m not saying that players need to not touch each other on defense. I’m not saying there’s no place for hard fouls. I’m not saying that if a guy puts an elbow in your back, you don’t remind him next time he goes up. But there’s got to be some semblance of respect for the guys that share the floor with you. They’re trying to make a living, just the same as you. I’m in competition with another company, I don’t want to do something that results in their house getting torn down. You can want to win without abandoning regard for the safety of the other 6-foot to 7-foot full speed players you’re battling against. The game was over. Rudy was going up for a simple dunk.

Davis was just as guilty the other night. It’s not a matter of dirty (though the Celtics will definitely use whatever edge they feel is necessary). It’s a matter of reckless. And it’s a matter of not risking the health and livelihood of a guy over your frustration that you just got the forum blue beat out of you by a team that plays worse defense than you do.

We’ve seen two players hit the deck and go to the hospital as a result of a Lakers foul this season. What’s it going to take before the league sends a message, even one so simple as “Not a big deal, but keep control.”

What say you? Should NBA players be concerned with the safety of other players, or should they simply have one goal in mind, winning?


Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.