Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell calls for some good old NBA toughness

After the Toronto Raptors lost to the Boston Celtics in overtime yesterday, Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell had this to say, "the thing we talked to (Raptors Guard-Forward) Anthony (Parker) and all our guys about – if you're going to grab me, there's some things that I can do." Mitchell then added, "the officials do a great job, but they're not going to see everything ... So you've got to learn how to protect yourself."

He didn't say it, but everyone knew what he meant.

The NBA needs to get tough.

Gone are the days wherein "little" John Stockton of the Utah Jazz would go down low and set a pick for his teammates--only to casually expedite a well placed elbow to the mid-section (or even lower, depending on their height) of his opponent (True story...or so former Detroit Piston, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Laker, and Dallas Maverick Dennis Rodman claims in his book, "Bad As I Wanna Be).

Today, players are clamoring about San Antonio Spurs forward Bruce Bowen's inability to provide offensive opponents amply space to land after they launch a shot. Call it defense. Call it foul play. Call it "No Form." Call it Distracting. Despite what anyone says, it is effective. Albeit in more ways than one--just ask Ray Allen (when he was with the Sonics), he missed some games due to a sprained an ankle brought about by Bowen's defense.

The Star's Dave Feschuk shares a classic "low blow" story as told by former Minnesota Timberwolf and current Toronto Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell:

"On the night in question Karl Malone, the Utah Jazz legend, was setting illegal screens that too often ended with Malone's elbow in the face of Terry Porter, Mitchell's Minnesota Timberwolves teammate. Pleas to the referees went unheeded and soon enough, Porter's fist was planted in the Mailman's sub-drawstring.

"Terry didn't hit him hard ... You ain't got to hit `em hard. All you've got to do is graze `em ... Just tap `em. Just ring the little bells," said Mitchell. "And Karl Malone just dropped. He was screaming, `Ahh! He hit me in the balls! He hit me in the balls!'

"The next pick Karl Malone set ... he kept those arms in. I'm telling you, there's things you can do.""

Feschuk ends by saying that, "today's players certainly get criticized by their predecessors for being too soft, although below-the-belt assaults aren't foreign to the era. Bruce Bowen, the Spurs defensive specialist, kneed Steve Nash in the groin during last spring's playoffs. A couple of post-seasons ago Reggie Evans, then a Nugget, now a Sixers forward, allegedly grabbed a handful of Chris Kaman's privates. (Some observers lamented that Evans wasn't suspended, although, as Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni joked at the time, Evans did get all ball)."

We all know what would be considered "soft" defense.

Now, only time will tell if the Toronto Raptors and the rest of the NBA can show just enough of that classic toughness.

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