With just under three minutes left in the first half of Monday night's Game 2 between the Pacers and Bulls, Indiana guard Darren Collison went way up for a swooping lay-up, and came down way too hard on his left ankle. He buckled as he tried to both steady himself and stop his momentum from crashing into a row of cameraman perched 5 feet behind the baseline under the basket, turned the ankle, and had to leave the game for good. His status for the rest of the series is in doubt, and this clearly is no fun for all involved.
The Twitter retribution was swift and damning, with a near-unanimous chorus demanding that cameramen (now outfitted with high-powered lenses that can take amazing shots from very far away) be removed from the baseline so as to aid in player safety. And while that's probably for the best, that's not the answer. Because there is no answer. Because whatever was there would have resulted in Darren Collison turning an ankle. That's the breaks of the game, sadly.
Say we lose the cameramen, and toss up a foamy, vinyl-covered foot-high (because you can't obstruct the view of the patron) barrier that runs the length of the part of the baseline that Collison stumbled into. He's going to turn an ankle on that, too. That's a nice barrier to run into if you're practicing off-tackle drills, but more obstacles to avoid on the way down (especially if you're only 6-feet tall, and are coming down from a 10-foot high rim) are not the answer.
And that's assuming that teams would think safety-first in the wake of losing the cameramen for the sidelines. Because teams would probably just replace those camera operators with more seats. Indulge me, if you will.
Collison's injury happened on the baseline that houses the top-tiered press row. You know, the TV guys and national columnists who hadn't seen the Pacers play until last Saturday. Real NBA junkies. That baseline, at the United Center, used to house three rows of seating for press on the left side of the basket that Collison crumpled under, and two sets of rows for visiting press on the side where Collison fell.
That was five years ago. Now, there are just two rows of press off to the left side, and the rows of press that Collison would have fallen in front of have been replaced by seats for paying customers. So while I'm not calling the Bulls out for a hypothetical batch of player endangerment, it's more than likely that if the photographers go, more seats move up to where the photogs once were. And I can't blame the Bulls for that.
So who do we blame? Who can we yell at? I'm not entirely sure we can yell, at this point.
It's been a slow and smart crawl from the era that used to see basketball players playing in literal cages, or suspended nets. But the camera operators have to work from somewhere around the court, and any step back for the visual press means patrons will have to take a step back somewhere -- even if you're plopping the camera operators five rows up to use their high powered lenses, you're displacing and moving back paying customers, and teams just aren't going to go for that.
Making things more complicated is the fact that the operator in question was working for the TV feed, the under-the-basket go-to shot that producers always go to when prepping for a Derrick Rose dunk. That's that guy. That's that feed. He's not going anywhere.
What do we chalk this up to? A big, fat, "damn," before moving on. It's unlucky, it's frustrating, but the threat of it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
- Darren Collison