Analysis: After another breakup, the NBA had to strike back

LeBron James is missing one game. Markieff Morris is missing his eighth, with no end in sight. The two things …

LeBron James is missing one game.

Markieff Morris is missing his eighth, with no end in sight.

The two things are more connected than some may be aware of.

By suspending James for Tuesday night’s game against New York – the Los Angeles Lakers’ lone visit to Madison Square Garden this season – due to his role in an incident in Detroit on Sunday, the NBA sent a very loud, very clear message to everyone , who may wish to participate in future dustups on the course.

Enough is enough.

Sunday night’s clutter in Detroit – the second significant game on the field in the NBA this season – gave James the first exclusion from his 19-year career, plus got the Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart a two-game suspension on top of the eight stitches needed to close a tear in his head.

“He felt like he was getting a cheap shot over the forehead,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “On the street, it would be a different story.”

Maybe that. But the NBA is not played on the street, and the league does not want anything similar to happen on their watch. So after two very ugly incidents separated by just a few weeks, the NBA decided to strike back by settling down with its biggest name.

James was thrown out for throwing his elbow, turning the fight into a melee. The NBA had options for what other sanctions were needed. There was precedent for just fining James, as has been the case in some similar situations. But the league apparently thought that would not be enough and went with the suspension to a nationally televised match in the world without a doubt most famous arena.

Fans will clearly notice his absence.

And so do NBA players. If James can be suspended, anyone can be suspended.

And that message should resonate with a couple of upcoming games in the next few days – a Pistons-Lakers rematch in Los Angeles on Sunday, a game that both James and Stewart will be eligible to play in, and Denver’s trip to Miami on Monday.

Nuggets-Heat II will be the rematch of a November 8 match, marred in the final moments by Morris, who zealously infects the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver, and Jokic reacts with a hard forearm into Morris’ back. The power from Jokic’s hit was enough to send Miami’s 245 pounds forward. Morris – generally regarded as one of the league’s tough guys – was in clear and immediate pain.

Jokic was suspended for one match. Morris has not played since and the Heat have given no indication that he is close to returning at all. Of all the key players in these two incidents on the field, with all due respect to the fact that Jokic and James combined to lose about half a million dollars in salary and Stewart became bloody, no one has come away with a worse fate. end Morris. He can not play and the Heat have missed him.

By the time the Nuggets visit the Heat on Monday, Morris’ absence will be up to 11 games. And counts.

It could be a circus Monday night in Miami, which of course is exactly what the NBA does not want.

Jokic’s two brothers have tickets for the game. They are quite recognizable and easily enthralled, as evidenced by some of their past antics during games. Their infamous Twitter account was short-lived, and it is fair to say that the league did not find the war of words entertaining between the Jokic brothers and Markieff Morris’ twin brother Marcus Morris of the Los Angeles Clippers.

And do not forget that Heat forward Jimmy Butler was fined and, according to the Denver Post, shouted down the hallway that separated the two locker rooms after the game to tell the Nuggets players that they know where Miami’s bus was parked, probably in case , that someone would stop. know and discuss the cases further.

The NBA can not be happy that there is so much attention coming to the two games, because that attention is there for the wrong reasons.

Nor can the league rejoice that the Detroit incident Sunday night drew obvious parallels to the infamous “Malice at the Palace” melee in Auburn Hills, Michigan in 2004, in which a cup was thrown from the stands and triggered perhaps the worst. fights in American sports history as members of the Pistons and Indiana Pacers entered the crowd.

James will not like the suspension, and neither will the Lakers. And it can be argued that he did not necessarily deserve one either.

The NBA sends a message, not to James, but to the entire league.

This should end now.

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Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds (at) ap.org

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