Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is expected to get a six-figure fine from the NFL for stepping onto the field Thursday night and interfering with the action. Tomlin’s stroll onto the field didn’t alter the game’s outcome. His action seemed, even under the intense scrutiny it got, “accidental.”
But no one can use “accidental” to describe what Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd did.
For Kidd gamed the NBA rules. In purposefully spilling a drink, the man outright cheated; he stole a timeout with 8.3 seconds left when his team didn’t have one to use. His effort was so ham-handed that fans have to ask how the referees missed it.
The TV cameras didn’t, which was bad news for Kidd and his wallet. The NBA moved swiftly and slapped him with a $50,000 fine.
That fine wasn’t severe enough.
While $50,000 is more than most American families make in a year, the figure is a fraction of what a high-profile coach like Kidd makes. He won’t miss it, which is the trouble with a paltry fine alone.
Sure, the Nets couldn’t turn that unwarranted stoppage of the game clock into a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, but that’s no reason to ignore Kidd’s ploy. The integrity of a sport had been put at risk nonetheless.
Sports fans have to know that the games they are watching – and betting on, too – adhere to rules. Those rules are specific, and Kidd, who spent almost two decades in the league as a point guard, knows those rules as well as any first-year coach.
Even worse, Kidd wasn’t the first NBA coach to try this ploy. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban posted video late last week that showed then-Chicago Bulls coach Del Harris doing what Kidd did in 2009. Harris got away with it, too.
Who else has spilled a drink to cheat the clock?
Perhaps sports fans will never know. But just ignore the past, because whatever cheaters like Harris got away with is etched in the record book. What fans should be concerned with is this: Did the NBA put in place a punishment that will discourage a Kidd, Part II?
No, the NBA didn’t. Another coach who has a championship or playoff spot in the balance would gladly accept a $50,000 or $100,000 fine if it meant he could win a deciding game.
Since the Kidd incident, people have trotted out the maxim “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’,” and those words must have currency still. Athletes and coaches are cheatin’ – cheatin’ in every way they can.
In the grand scheme of sports cheating, Kidd’s crime didn’t rival the cheating of men (and women) like Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Bill Belichick and Rosie Ruiz.
Yet that’s not the point. Fans have grand expectations about the integrity of the signature American sports, and pro basketball is one of those sports. Fans might pardon Brad Stevens, the first-year coach of the Boston Celtics, for what Kidd did. Stevens never played a minute of NBA ball and his exposure to the professional side of hoops is of a recent vintage.
Kidd, a former NBA star who’s desperate to prove he’s no incompetent coach, can’t offer the same excuse. Absent a reason to cheat – and there is no reason – the league should have punished him with sanctions so Draconian that no coach or player would dare do what Kidd did again.
How about a $1 million fine and a 10-game suspension? That will make the message clear, won’t it?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo)