Punching bag

The Vertical
Yahoo! Sports

For me, there have been fewer greater blessings this holiday season than to read all the beautiful letters from Yahoo!'s vast audience; tidings of peace ("Dude, get Lasik surgery. Nobody wants to look at those coke-bottle glasses"), joy ("You went to St. Bonaventure? How's that welding program going?") and happiness ("I just wasted two minutes of my life reading THAT?").

After getting my feet under me as Yahoo! Sports' NBA columnist, I promise that I'll start posting mailbags on a more regular basis. If nothing else, I'm a glutton for the punishment. Actually, it is fascinating to hear from NBA fans from all parts of the world, including Iran and Beijing in my most recent batch.

To get a response, here's something that I do need: A name and a town. I let it slide on a few emails in this first batch, but it's going to be a necessity moving forward.

Anyway, bring it on. (My comments appear in italics.)

NUGGETS-KNICKS FIGHT ("Counterpunch to Commish," Dec. 17, 2006)

Except in whatever phone booth you live in, what happened in New York is on Isiah Thomas.

Stan C.

These guys involved in that fight, they are supposed to be role models for the young people. These guys ought to be permanently suspended, without pay, from basketball. We should send a message that this kind of conduct is not acceptable.

Cane Beds, Ariz.

Meven, if you want to take it that far in the NBA, you have to be willing to do so in the three other major sports where fighting is far more common.

GEORGE KARL ("Losing his Carolina Way," Dec. 18, 2006)

What Dean Smith has to do with [George Karl's part in the Denver-New York fight] in any way is just stupid.


Trying to grab headlines by maligning the name of coach Smith is truly repugnant.

C. Simons

Hey guys, you missed the point: The premise was that Dean Smith NEVER taught his disciples to coach or behave like George Karl did before and after the mess at Madison Square Garden. Trying to run up the score at the risk of harming Karl's own team so he could exact some kind of silly revenge for Larry Brown's fate in New York falls far below the standards set by Dean Smith. Once again, the Karls and Browns are always preaching an adherence to Dean's doctrine. I'd just like to see it talked about less, and practiced more.

ISIAH AND THE KNICKS ("Paying a steep price," Nov. 28, 2006)

Adrian, I just wanted to say your article was the best one I have read about the New York Knicks and the mess Isiah Thomas has created. I loved your pulling no punches and honesty. Keep up the good work. I will still root for the Knicks as I have for a long time even though they are the worst of the NBA right now.

Trenton, N.J.

Dave, don't look now but Isiah Thomas has the Knicks playing tough, compelling basketball since the blowout that led to the fight with Denver. Eddy Curry is developing into a dominant low-post scorer and rebounder, Stephon Marbury is starting to get his confidence back and Isiah's young players have shown a lot of staying in power in winning three of four games in overtime.

The Knicks can really make a statement on their Western swing that starts in Phoenix. Nevertheless, the Knicks can no longer be dismissed as a lost cause. If Larry Brown had stayed and New York played this way, he'd be the toast of the town. If nothing else, Isiah deserves a nod right now.

NETS' NOSEDIVE ("Bottom of the Atlantic," Dec. 26, 2006)

I was wondering if Jason Kidd can do something like inspiring Vince Carter. Or if Jason Kidd is actually good for the team and not the cause of its present predicament. He does produce the necessary results, but is he a leader enough to make the team jell?

Jose L. de Mesa Jr.

Jose, for most of his first season and a half with the New Jersey Nets, there was a strong belief within the locker room that Jason Kidd was largely responsible from keeping Carter from coasting. It's unfair to hold Kidd accountable for Carter's drive in the long run. The Nets have a lot of problems right now, but Kidd's leadership and effort isn't one of them.

KINGS' ARENA CONTROVERSY ("Sacramento's savior," Nov. 16, 2006)

You couldn't be more right about the NBA needing the Sacramento Kings. You simply can't replace that kind of passion for a team.

You make a good analogy to the Charlotte Hornets disaster. I grew up in the Charlotte area when the Hornets came to town. For the first 10 years, fan support for that team was unbelievable. But owner George Shinn not only ruined the good thing he had going with his griping about a new arena and personal scandals, but he also effectively poisoned the well for the NBA in the Carolinas.

I'm a Charlotte Bobcats fan now, but they are limping along. Corporate sales make up much of the ticket-buyers and most sports fans in the area sadly couldn't care less about the team. I can't blame the Bobcats; they are just in a nearly impossible situation.

So if the NBA botches the Sacramento Kings situation, it will never recapture that magic. David Stern needs to do everything he can to keep the Kings in Sacramento, even if that means pressuring the Maloof boys to sell the franchise.

Brian Buchanan
Greensboro, N.C.

Brian, expansion basketball is a tough sell, especially in a basketball-savvy city like Charlotte that had already endured those years with the Hornets. If the Bobcats continue to build on a solid foundation of young players and start winning, I still think the fans will come back there.

And there is little, if no, chance Stern would ever pressure the Maloofs to sell the Kings. They've been successful owners for a franchise that Stern calls one of the league's "success stories."

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