What’s this … violence among teammates in the NBA?
Nasty words thrown around?
Pas bon. Or as we say it in plain English downtown: Not good.
When that violence involves an All-Star player making $30-plus million a year, a former Jazz player, one that everyone around here got to know real well over a nine-year span, it’s doubly disturbing. And when there are verbal barbs thrown before and after the violence, aimed at Rudy Gobert, what are we supposed to do with that?
It was Gobert who threw a punch at Kyle Anderson smack dab in the middle of a team huddle that turned into an angry scrum during the Timberwolves’ game against the Pelicans on Sunday, a game important to Minnesota as it was maneuvering for playoff position. The T-wolves won the game and will play against the Lakers on Tuesday night, but they may have completely lost the battle in the process.
Not only did Gobert do his worst Mike Tyson, getting subsequently sent home for it by his own team, another teammate, forward Jaden McDaniels, in a fit of frustration near the end of the first quarter, punched a wall, breaking his hand, ending his season. Minnesota has now reportedly decided to suspend him for Tuesday night’s play-in game against the Lakers.
Punches with bad intentions.
Split decisions, split decisions.
The whole of it reminded me of a long-ago friend who, as a young kid, when he got in a spat with his older sister, his parents would make the two of them sit in a hallway and hold hands.
That was their punishment. Consequences followed crimes.
I’m trying to picture Gobert and Anderson sitting in a hallway at the Wolves’ facility, holding hands.
Here are a couple of things, though. First, Gobert wasn’t playing his best, having allowed a couple of easy second-quarter baskets before the timeout when the action really heated up on Minny’s bench. Second, Anderson reportedly said some things to Gobert that it would be hard for any man as proud and competitive as Rudy to simply walk away from.
Ironic it was that what transpired among the Timberwolves happened on Easter Sunday, because the holy figure for whom the holiday was established had preached, upon attack, to “turn the other cheek.” But there was no way Gobert, who had done some talking of his own, could do so in response to what Anderson yelled at him straight in front of his teammates.
According to reports, Anderson said: “Shut the —— up, ——.”
When exactly, outside perfection of the holy writ, is it OK to go ahead and unload that kind of jab at a person, whether he’s wearing the same jersey as you or not, in the heat of competition?
I’ve seen profane expressions like that exchanged on a golf course, between two grown men who had never before met, one having hit into the other’s group with a screaming 5-iron and the other having hit the same Titleist back at the original launcher with an equally screaming 4-iron. Nasty words were spoken and then. … And then, a brawl broke out right there in the fairway, neither golfer willing to back down or apologize for the words or the misdeeds. One of the fellas ended up in the hospital, a substantial ring on the offending fist having cut the side of the recipient’s face, requiring 12 stitches, if memory serves.
If I had uttered those words at my own mother, she — God bless her loving soul — might have responded the same way Gobert did. And I would have deserved it and I wouldn’t have blamed her.
There are some things you cannot say. Anderson’s were five of them.
Again, I’m no proponent of violence. But what teammate said to teammate, regardless of what had preceded it, is messed up. Anderson apparently had told Rudy to block some #@%$#@-ing shots and Rudy had told Anderson to grab some rebounds, with some extra color thrown in for … emphasis.
Gobert later apologized.
He also sent out a Tweet that read as follows: “Emotions got the best of me today. I should not have reacted the way I did regardless of what was said. I wanna apologize to the fans, the organization and particularly to Kyle, who is someone that I truly love and respect as a teammate.”
After the game, Anderson said, “Tempers flare, you’re in the middle of a game, a game we all want to win, a huge one, it is what it is. You know, s—- happens. It’s not the first time something like that has happened.”
Added Anderson: “… We’ll speak about it and move on. We’re grown men.”
Former Jazz player Mike Conley, a teammate nobody has ever disliked, said in the aftermath, in so many words, that fires burn sometimes, but that Gobert and Anderson would work it through: “We’ve gotta be men.”
Being men was what got the T-wolves into the muck in the first place.
Afterward, on Twitter, a lot of folks ripped Gobert hard, saying the Jazz offloaded not just a big man but a big problem on Minnesota in the teams’ trade and got back a haul that will help Utah moving forward.
Gobert was always a hyper-proud, hyper-competitive individual who didn’t always get along with his teammates in Utah, but who worked diligently to transform himself from a project into a three-time defensive player of the year. That was no fluke. He was an imperfect player, but an impactful one. The force he created for the Jazz was meaningful in many ways. Unfortunate to see his name and his game now tossed around like last week’s garbage. If he’s used right and healthy, he can help a team win, and he should for what he’s being paid.
Still, he’s nobody’s garbage. He’s nobody’s dog. And based on the punch he threw at Anderson, he’s nobody’s prize fighter, either.
Admit it, few men are, proud or competitive or otherwise, even when five hurtful words or terms like them are thrown. Not a bad thing — before any punch is launched — to remember.