New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

Larry Bird beat J.R. Smith to shoelace stunt

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J.R. Smith was put through the ringer last week for untying Dwight Howard’s shoe, untying Shawn Marion’s shoe and gesturing to untie Greg Monroe’s shoe.

Smith was fined, benched, told to grow up by his coach and shamed by the NBA’s most powerful writer.

So why didn’t Larry Bird get the same treatment after his matchup with Chuck Person in the 1991 playoffs? Jack McCallum’s “Unfinished Business,” as excerpted by Billy Haisley on Deadspin:

Bird and Person continued their personal battle. At one point when Bird was out of the game and lying on his towel in front of the bench, he reached over and untied Person’s shoelaces as the Pacer waited for a free throw at the other end.

Bird is a relentless competitor who will seek any edge.

Smith is a clown who doesn’t play the game the right way.

The characterizations were written long before either player untied an opponent’s shoe. The facts were just fit into the narrative in support of the already-established script.

It’s hypocritical.

Anyone who slammed Smith should either accept they overreacted or assess Bird similarly for this act. A difference in eras does not justify one and not the other.

Bird and Smith are obviously not the same and do not deserve the same reputations.

But for how they handled these specific cases, they deserve the same scrutiny.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.

DeAndre Jordan dunks on Marcus Smart before Smart knows what’s happening (video)

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Marcus Smart went to tag DeAndre Jordan on the pick-and-roll, and Jordan took off from so far from the basket, he was dunking on Smart before the Celtics guard could do a thing.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.