- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Amid the background music of “The Twilight Zone,” Derek Fisher says the NBA is being unfairly linked to the thug element that brought its primitive charms to Las Vegas during All-Star Weekend.

“To associate the violence with the players, that’s not a fair assessment,” the newly named president of the NBA Players Association told the Los Angeles Times.

Perhaps he has a point. Perhaps the violence should be attached to the heavily sculpted face of Wayne Newton, who appears to be heading in the surgical direction of the Asian-like Burt Reynolds.

Fisher is not being intellectually honest. He knows the All-Star Game has come to be a destination place of gangbangers, rappers, posses, hangers-on and painted women hoping to forge a palimony suit.

Whether the NBA chose the thugs or the thugs chose the NBA is a moot point.

What is undeniable is the connection between the NBA and the keep-it-real crowd.

To be fair, there was no hint of wrongdoing among the NBA players who gathered in Las Vegas. As far as anyone knows, not one player earned even a jaywalking ticket.

In fact, the only professional athlete who landed in trouble was Adam “Pacman” Jones, a cornerback with the Titans.

Jones, who apparently has the IQ of a pet rock, took offense after a stripper started scooping up hundreds of dollar bills he had thrown onto the stage.

This is what strippers are conditioned to do. They are like seals at the zoo in that regard, only their squid is the dollar bill.

Jones thought his bills were to be utilized as a prop, which is a good one.

That almost is as good as the misdemeanor charge of assault that was filed against him by a woman who claims he spit on her at a nightclub last October.

Anyway, Jones and his buddies were removed from the strip club after he became upset with his disappearing dollar bills, which resulted in gun fire outside the club that left one of the bouncers paralyzed from the waist down.

The Clark County’s sheriff’s office said 403 arrests were made on All-Star Weekend. It also said there were four shootings connected to the All-Star activities, however the sheriff’s office makes that determination.

The mayor’s office of Las Vegas has tried to temper the lawlessness story line of the weekend, in part because the city is seeking an NBA franchise and in no way wants to hurt the feelings of David Stern.

Stern has bigger problems than how orderly or disorderly it was in Las Vegas. His entity has a perception problem, which, among things, has led to a dress code and stricter rules governing player protests of referees’ calls.

Stern has a corporation to protect, and whether players like it or not, they are part of it.

There is just way too much money at stake to be playing keep-it-real games, which is an absurd proposition if players ever bother to consider how unreal their compensation is.

It is hard to grasp the logic of a multi-millionaire player who equates a gun on his belt to keeping it real, as if this accessory somehow nullifies the seven luxury vehicles parked in the driveway of his estate.

Jason Whitlock, writing on AOL, suggests the All-Star Game should be moved out of the country for the next couple of years in the hope that the “young, hip-hop hoodlums would find another event to terrorize.”

His suggestion comes with the All-Star Game scheduled to be held in New Orleans next year.

New Orleans is hardly a comforting venue, given the history of violence that has plagued the city.

Fisher is obligated to make his stab at damage control.

It is not the players, he says. It is them.

Yet he knows the players on some level give their tacit approval to the thug element that embraces the All-Star Game each February, which undermines the image of the NBA.

And that is just plain dumb from a marketing standpoint.

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