Superstars get the power, money, endorsements, fans and respect from everyone league round. Some would even argue that they get the favorable calls from the referees. But recent rulings by the head of the NBA, David Stern, have indicated that superstars get dealt with in a different fashion than run-of-the-mill players.
It’s understandable that even the heads of the league would have an affinity toward superstars as they are the ones that sell the jerseys and put fans in the seats. However when dealing with punishing bad behavior, it seems as if superstars have a completely different scale of being punished for bad behavior. I believe that suspensions are few and far between for superstars because the NBA gets higher ratings and make more money when these players are out there.
The biggest measuring stick for this is rising star and power forward for the Sacramento Kings Demarcus Cousins. Cousins is in his third year in the NBA and is notorious in the league for his bad behavior. Through his entire career he leads the league in technical fouls with 31 and ejections with four.
In a game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Spurs color commentator and former NBA player Sean Elliot took to the airwaves criticising Cousins’ interaction with his ex-teammate Tim Duncan. After the game, Cousins got wind of this and confronted Elliot after the game. The league took a look at the incident and handed Cousins a two game suspension.
A week later, the league was faced with a similar decision with superstar power forward Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies. In a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Randolph and Kendrick Perkins got thrown out of the game due to their physical play and needed to be separated during free throws.
Similar to the incident between Cousins and Elliot, Randolph made his way around the home team’s locker room to confront Perkins. Randolph was fined only $25,000 for the incident with no suspension.
The argument can be made that Cousins is a repeat offender and that is the reason why his punishment was substantially different from the one handed to Randolph. What if this is compared to a superstar who is also a repeat offender in Rajon Rondo?
Last season, Rondo was suspended two games for throwing a ball at a referee. Then in the playoffs of the same season, he was only given a suspension of one game for bumping the chest of an official. Both of these were physical altercations between the enforcers of the rules on the court and a superstar athlete and he only got a total of three games.
Then last week, Rondo shoved Brooklyn Nets power forward Kris Humphries after Humphries committed a hard foul to Rondo’s teammate Kevin Garnett. A melee ensued that leaked into where the photographers were sitting and right in front of many fans. Several players had to be separated. Rondo was ejected from the game and once again given a two game suspension.
The punishments do not seem to fit the crime as physical altercations are usually seen as much more punishable especially considering that Rondo had physical acts toward the referees twice. Then went on for his third suspendable physical altercation in a matter of months. A total of five games for three physical altercation, while Cousins gets two games for one verbal altercation with a broadcaster.
With this type of track record it can be assumed that the higher-ups in the league would like their superstars out there at all costs. Nothing truly showcases this than Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sending three superstars and another starter home to rest before a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat last Thursday.
The decision was strategy that Popovich has incorporated before to rest his players as it was the last of playing four games in five nights. Those three superstars were Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Commissioner Stern stated that the Spurs team cheated the league and the fans by not bringing those players to the arena, let alone to play.
The Spurs were fined a whopping $250,000 despite the fact that the game was still exciting and ended in a relatively close 105-100 defeat. In a statement released by the league the punishment was handed down citing that resting players in that manner is “contrary to the best interests of the NBA.”
My guess is that the best interest of the NBA and Commissioner David Stern is the color green.