Bad Boys, Big Baby, Coward Cuban

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - May 20, 2009
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Coach Chuck Daly with members of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team

With the NBA getting all of the attention this week - no doubt to the consternation of the NHL, which could only counter with its most popular team and arguably two greatest players going into a seven-game series - three stories were bound for the usual 24-hour news overkill.

The Death of Chuck Daly

One could argue Chick Daly’s Hall of Fame qualifications by pointing out that he wasn’t as much a coach as a prison guard who marched out convicts to physically assault the competition. The Detroit Pistons under Daly were tough, no question. You didn’t drive the lane without getting hit, and a hard foul caused a retaliated response. But such was life in the NBA during the1980s.

For all their banging, bruising and belligerent behavior, the Bad Boys were one of the most intelligent teams of the era. The Pistons weren’t fancy and never tried to be something they weren’t. They knew their strengths and weaknesses, and played accordingly.

Perhaps more important, they recognized their opponents’ weaknesses and figured out how to exploit them. But for all Daly’s teams did on the court, including the original 1992 Olympic Dream Team, his greatest accomplishment was somehow maintaining a balance among the strangest group of personalities outside of the new-century Trail Blazers ever to grace a NBA team. Outside of Joe Dumars, for whom the NBA named its Man of the Year Award, this was a three-ring circus.

Bill Laimbeer was a player only a teammate could like, Isiah Thomas a three-card monte hustler with a cover boy smile, and was it just a coincidence that Dennis Rodman went from hard-working defender to a basket case once Daly moved on?

The testimonies after his passing took on a familiar ring. So did the watery eyes among those who participated. He was a coach, a mentor and a guy for whom other people wanted to play, yet he still managed to leave people shaking their heads when they wondered how such a nice guy could coach such a bunch of jerks.

Big Baby’s Tempered Response

No one is suggesting that Celtic forward Glen Davis went after Nicholas Provetti as if the 12-year-old had just stolen his Double Stuf Oreos, but the fact is that Davis shoved the young Magic fan as he raced along the sideline to join teammates for a post-game celebration.

Provetti’s father, who demanded an apology and tried to compare Davis’ path of destruction to that of Genghis Khan’s march through central Asia, got carried away with his accusations. Anyone purchasing a court-side seat has to recognize a certain amount of risk comes with such access. And even though no one was hurt, Davis is a strong 289-pound athlete who pushed a child, and common decency requires an appropriate apology - and perhaps an autographed basketball. His “If I had hurt anyone please forgive me” line was agent-written BS. He may have been sincere, but no matter how honest the sentiment, a prepared statement always rings hollow.

Cuban Goes Too Far

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been a polarizing figure ever since he first strode to his court-side seats and began abusing players, officials and coaches. But when he walked past Kenyon Martin’s mother and yelled at her that her son was a “thug,” he went from amusing annoyance to an egoobsessed coward.

Cuban, who likes to think his team benefits from his fanatical response to any perceived slight to his traditionally underperforming squad, showed even more courage when he apologized to Martin and his mother in a very personal way - on his blog. Martin said he would confront Cuban about the incident, but it was quickly announced the owner would miss the game so he could receive his CLIO Award.

Stranger than Cuban’s cowardliness was the response by the NBA. There was no response. Over the years, Cuban has been one of the league’s best contributors to the NBA wayward mouth fund. It seems strange the league has decided to stay quiet now that the target was a player’s mother and not a game official.

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