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Stern, Stars & Bogus Technical Fouls That Could Ruin The NBA

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I'd prefer to call it "The Sheed Rule," but, while that would make perfect sense, I can't have fun with something that I truly, sincerely despise.

As someone who has been a fan of NBA commissioner David Stern's decision-making over the years, I'm baffled by this new technical foul business. Absolutely baffled.

The NBA has been a League of Stars under Stern's reign. No other league markets or protects its stars better. Referees have always been known to favor the star players, whether or not they'd care to admit such (see: Dwyane Wade in the 2006 NBA Finals). The stars carry the league. Who watched the Spurs/Pistons NBA Finals? I'm actually a fan of boring, fundamental team basketball (really, I am), but nobody watched that series. There were no "stars" involved (it's sad that Tim Duncan doesn't really qualify as a STAR, because he's probably the best player of the last decade).

So, with that in mind, commish, you're suddenly going to start kicking these stars out of games?

Ah, yes. Now that Kobe Bryant has been tossed, I can finally watch Shannon Brown. Finally. Gee, this is great. 

Yeah, right.

Take a look around professional sports. No other league relies upon, nor markets its stars better. The star players keep the game exciting. There's a huge difference between star players in basketball and star players in, say, football. A running back is nothing without a good offensive line. A wide receiver is nothing without a good quarterback (case in point: Larry Fitzgerald). Football players can rarely overcome the shortcomings of their teammates, both in wins and in personal stats. As such, the league's popularity stems from a particular team's performance rather than the performance of a select 10-15 players.

You see new star-level players in the NFL every year by the dozen. They shuffle in and shuffle out, but we, the fans, couldn't care less. As long as my Texans win games, it really doesn't matter. Steve Slaton, Arian Foster, Ron Dayne - I don't care. If the team can find someone to produce, then it doesn't matter who that person may be. I'll still watch. Yards are yards, touchdowns are touchdowns. It's much easier to plug players into a system in the NFL than in the NBA.

Despite the efforts by staheads to magnify the effects of good team play in statistics (because good team play is, of course, the ultimate key to winning), players make their own living. They start becoming "the guy," and fans love it when the ball gets passed to "the guy" because it brings about excitement and an opportunity to see basketball played unlike any way that it has been played before. We never saw Dirk before Dirk. We never saw Kobe before Kobe (i.e. someone with the milage of a '96 Chevy who still manages to be a top-3 player). And with Durant? It's a whole new ballgame. A 6-foot-10 player with the legitimate capabilities of a shooting guard? Never seen that 'til now.

Counterpoint: Barry Sanders. Counterpoint: Deion Sanders. Counterpoint: Peyton Manning. Counterpoint: Randy Moss. And there are many more. But star power is so much more prevalent in basketball. There are less players on the court. Individuals are trusted to do more on their own, outside of the realm of a system or a specific play call. That's just the way it is.

We've seen flashes of these star NBA players in the past. You can pick out facets of Bryant's game and think to yourself, "Hey, that reminds me of Jordan's pull-up jumper." But we haven't seen these specific players. They bring their own flare to the game.

Here lies the scary part of this argument, where the bias of a basketball fan is introduced.

In the broadest terms, no matter how you swing a bat, a baseball won't do anything different than what we've seen before. Visually, no matter how impressive Manning and Brady are, they haven't revolutionized how a quarterback plays the game. You still drop back, you still throw. Now, as for all of the miniscule details that go into that process (endless audibles, defensive reads, perfect precision)? That's what Manning and Brady have revolutionized. But that doesn't bring extra ratings.

Michael Vick was the NFL's game-changer. He could pass and run, and it wasn't the kind of running that we had seen before, especially against this particular brand of insanely athletic defenders. He didn't just run through available gaps; he ran around them. He created his space. You could say that Michael Vick helped invent the wildcat. Why not have a player take the direct snap who can run like a running back or wide receiver? He was - and still is - revolutionary. You make time to watch Michael Vick, because he could pull something out of his back pocket that you've never seen before.

The NBA is full of Michael Vicks: star players who succeed in ways that make them truly unique. And David Stern is going to sit these players down for some backtalk?

Kevin Garnett runs his mouth. So too do Bryant and Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony and others. That's just how they are. And we're going to keep them from playing basketball because of their mouths. We're going to kick them out of games for butt taps and human reactions that simply can't be contained sometimes. This isn't like - to continue the football analogy - celebrating in the end zone after a touchdown. This is putting a harness on an often incontrollable impulse. 

What if someone went up to David Stern, viciously slapped his arm and walked away without saying a word? You don't think Stern would want to at least say something to this person, other than, "Oh, that's okay, thanks for that?" It's human reaction. It's uncontainable sometimes.

Remember when Joey Crawford got suspended for tossing Tim Duncan out of a playoff game for smiling at him? Apparently, we've switched gears and are actually promoting this kind of buffoonery now.

Stern is taking a huge gamble siding with the referees. This is no "dress code rule" or anything of that nature. It's an on-court gamble. It puts star players at a greater risk for getting kicked out of games because referees aren't perfect. And that's putting it in the nicest terms, because while I understand how difficult the job is, the referees have certainly become predictably inconsistent.

We're looking at you, referee who just whistled a team for a blocking foul because it's apparently against basketball law to call back-to-back charging calls, despite the fact that each play should have technically been ruled a charge.

If anything, this new rule bodes well for Houston, because their best players don't complain, at least not too noticeably. That said, "complaining" is about to have an entirely new meaning in 2010-2011. If Yao wants to say something to a referee, he'd better do so in Chinese. And even then, it may be grounds for a technical.

We have no choice but to live with Stern's decision-making for now, but if referees actually play ball - if they start tossing ANY player for saying ANYthing - this could be an enormous mistake. And for what cause?