Are the NBA rules for using the “F” word the way they should be?

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Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah both recently were caught using a homophobic slur that starts with the letter “F,” yet their fines were very different.  Kobe, who directed his shot at a referee, was fined $100,000, while Noah’s use of the term was directed at a “fan,” which only drew a $50,000 fine from the league.  Let’s take a look at the difference, and whether or not it was the correct move.

First of all, I doubt there will ever be a consensus in this argument, as everyone seems to have a different opinion. But quite simply, Kobe was fined more because he berated an official, while Noah simply violated the league’s conduct policy.  And while the obvious insensitivity by the use of the “F” word implicates both players, it’s possible they could be fined for getting caught on camera dropping any number of different curse words, including ones that are not offensive to a minority group.  We have to remember there are people within earshot, many times kids, who have to sit through these situations, and the league has no rules in place for one set of penalties against bigotry, and another against simply dropping an old school “F Bomb.”  There is “overall conduct” and “conduct toward officials.”  If you don’t like the rules, take it up with David Stern.  But the way they’re written, I think the two fines were appropriate to the rules.

And when you add in the fact that $100,000 means less to Kobe, at least as a percentage, than $50,000 means to Noah, it makes even more sense.  The real question I have is, why don’t the rules dictate a bigger fine for racism/bigotry, as well as what specifically makes attacking a referee more taboo than lighting a fan up?  Are referees more valuable than fans?

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that every situation is different and I like the fact the NBA has left some leeway in the rules in order to be able to make a judgment call when necessary.  Now, regardless of what the “fan” in Miami said to Noah, there was no reason for Noah to come back at him the way he did.  But if you listen to Taj Gibson, that “fan” was on him from the get-go and said some very personal things.  In other words, he provoked Noah into a confrontation, which was likely his goal from the outset.  In fact, the so-called “fan” is probably upset he didn’t bait Noah into a punch, so he could actually reap something from Noah’s loss.

On the other hand, Kobe wasn’t really provoked by the official, at least in the same sense as Noah was by the fan.  The officials and players have to work together, and there are specific rules written about a player’s interaction with the officials.  Once it crosses the line, the penalties will be handed out.  And just because a fan buys a front-row ticket, it doesn’t give him the green light to be a “jackass,” as Ken Berger of CBS so eloquently put it on Twitter Monday afternoon.

I fully expected the two fines to be different (despite them both using the same forbidden word) and like the fact that the league can use its judgment on interaction with fans.  What I’m hoping is that these recent fines don’t result in cameras being taken off benches, as well as players when they’re upset with a fan, or a call.  Each case is different.  And do I think that Noah, or anyone else, should drop an insenstive term directed at an official or a fan?  No.  But NBA players are human beings, and can only be pushed so far before retaliation ensues.  Obviously, a term like “assclown” or “asshat” works much better in these situations, but unfortunately, a lot of NBA players are going to use words that the rest of the world doesn’t approve of.  So the league will be left to decide the fines when these situations arise.  And I can live with that.  The bottom line is that Kobe and Noah should not have been suspended for their insensitivity, based on the current rules.  Maybe that will change in the future, but for now, the league has dealt with these two situations as it saw fit.  And I have no problem with that.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Thunder convert missed FT to 3-pointer, refs miss James Harden push as Rockets win Game 4

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As if the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers Game 4 wasn’t wild enough, the finish to the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was just as odd.

The final quarter of Sunday’s game was laden with poor play and heavy fouling, including a ploy by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to put Thunder forward Andre Roberson at the line as part of a hacking strategy.

But the final minute was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the Thunder converted a purposely-missed free-throw attempt by Steven Adams into a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with just 21 seconds left.

Via Twitter:

The Thunder then broke down on the inbounds play a few seconds later, allowing Nene — who had a great game, scoring 28 points off the bench on 12-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds — to score an and-1 at the other end of the floor.

Oklahoma City then scored again on a tip.

That’s when it got REAL weird.

Houston inbounded the ball to James Harden, who got away with a gigantic, and frankly hilarious push off on Alex Abrines. OKC nearly stole the ball, but instead were called for a foul.

Via Twitter:

This game was wild, weird, terrible, and both sides have something to gripe about when it came to fouls.

Houston beat OKC, 113-109, and take a 3-1 lead back to Texas.

Russell Westbrook clinches triple-double in first half vs. Rockets

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook achieved a triple-double in the first half of Sunday’s playoff game against the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at halftime. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter. The Thunder led 58-54 at the break.

According to the Thunder, Westbrook became the second player to claim three consecutive triple-doubles in the playoffs. Wilt Chamberlain had three straight in 1967.

Westbrook entered the game averaging a triple-double in the series. He just set the record for triple-doubles in a regular season with 42.

Houston leads the series 2-1.

LeBron James helps Cavaliers hold off Pacers, earn sweep into 2nd round

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) LeBron James made a 3-pointer with 68 seconds left Sunday and the Cleveland Cavaliers hung on for a 106-102 series-clinching victory at Indiana.

James finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds as he became the first player under the current playoff format to win 21 straight first-round games. He also set a league record with his 10th career playoff sweep.

It sure wasn’t easy. After taking a 96-83 lead with 9:29 to go, the Cavs found themselves in a 102-100 deficit with 1:31 left.

But James answered with the go-ahead 3-pointer and Cleveland sealed the win on James’ free throw with 1 second left.

Lance Stephenson scored 22 points and Paul George added 15 but missed a 3-pointer that could have forced overtime in the closing seconds. It’s the first time the Pacers have lost a series 4-0 in their NBA history.

Kyrie Irving added 28 points for the Cavs, who await the winner of the Bucks-Raptors series.

Indiana got back into the game with a 7-0 spurt early in the in the fourth, then methodically continued chipping away at the lead until Thaddeus Young tied the score at 100 with a short jumper and broke the tie on a tip-in with 1:31 left.

But James, whose teams were 51-0 when starting the fourth quarter with double-digit leads in the postseason, made sure the perfect record remained intact.

Cleveland has won seven straight playoff games overall and 11 straight in the first round since James returned to his hometown team.

It was another milestone day for James, who moved past Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson and James Worthy on the league’s list of consecutive first-round wins, and past Tim Duncan for most career sweeps, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

James also went 13 off 25 from the field, tying Kobe Bryant for fourth on the career playoff list for field goals. Each have 2,014 baskets.

Indiana has lost five straight postseason games and six of its last eight.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Will make their 11th appearance in the conference semifinals. … Cleveland has swept all eight series in which it has taken a 3-0 lead. … Tristan Thompson grabbed 11 rebounds Sunday, giving him double digits in all four games. … Deron Williams scored 14 points and Kevin Love had 16 rebounds.

Pacers: George finished with a series-low point total Sunday and was 3 of 9 on 3s after entering the game with a league-high 15 3s in the playoffs. … Teague scored 15 points and was the catalyst in the final spurt, including blocking one of James’ shots. He can become a free agent this summer. …Myles Turner had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Young had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Cleveland gets some extra rest before finding out who it will play in the second round. Indiana embarks on a crucial offseason that could dictate the franchise’s future.

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