- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The man who was once bitten by a tree ended up sitting next to the mother of the latest flavor of the moment in the Big 12 tournament.

Danny Ainge professed not to know he was seated next to the mother of Kevin Durant, the Texas wunderkind with the itchy trigger finger.

He insisted the seating was a coincidence, that the person in charge of distributing tickets was at fault, although Ainge was caught on camera giving Durant’s mother a neck massage during timeouts and a pedicure at halftime.

That fraternization was deemed excessive by the NBA’s behavioral police and resulted in a $30,000 fine, chump change no doubt but indicative of the NBA’s creeping totalitarian state.

The NBA is on a crusade to excise all the idiosyncrasies of the human condition, whether it is the awfully convenient seat of Ainge or the disgusted look of a player that could undermine the fragile self-esteem of a referee.

The NBA has put the players in suits and on notice.

The latter goes double for Kobe Bryant’s unnatural shooting form that causes pained expressions on the part of the victims.

Ainge is the product of the NBA a generation ago, when an errant elbow could lead to a takedown and a bite. That piece of NBA lore involved Wayne “Tree” Rollins and Ainge in the 1983 playoffs.

Both Rollins and Ainge probably would be obligated to undergo counseling, sensitivity training and anger-management seminars if they committed their primitive acts of aggression in today’s NBA.

Or perhaps they could be sent to a re-education camp styled after the peace-loving Khmer Rouge of Cambodia.

Ainge is one of three NBA executives who has been found guilty of being unable to stay cool around the NBA’s potential help.

Michael Jordan and Don Nelson also lost their cool around the talent that is exhaustively evaluated in March.

Jordan told the Charlotte Observer last week that he was seeking versatile players.

“The kid who may present that is the kid in Texas,” Jordan said. “[He] may have that because he has all the right signs.”

That excessive verbiage cost the Bobcats $15,000, or roughly $714 a word.

Nelson received a $15,000 fine as well after dispensing his assessment of Durant and Greg Oden to SI.com.

The urge to wax poetically about either player is especially compelling to Ainge, Jordan and Nelson, considering the modest conditions of their teams.

The prospect of next season is all they have to peddle.

Nelson probably merited a pardon after his brush with the Tony Brothers-led Wizards on Fun Street earlier this month.

That last-second debacle cost Nelson and the Warriors a precious game in the standings, no small development as they endeavor to claim the meaningless eighth seed in the Western Conference.

The Orwellian nature of the NBA once prompted the fashion police to air-brush the tattoos from the body/canvass of Allen Iverson.

The crackdown of the NBA is understandable to a point, considering the decision of ESPN executives to air the replay of Ron Artest going rabid in Auburn Hills, Mich., a trillion times.

The decision stoked the perception of an NBA gone wild.

That perception was not helped by the sight of Reggie Evans groping Chris Kaman in the private regions in the playoffs last spring.

Or the sight of Carmelo Anthony backpedaling at a furious pace because of the mad-dog advancements of Jared Jeffries, previously best known as Brendan Haywood’s goof-around buddy.

The NBA apparently has come to believe a fine a day keeps the detractors away.

You can tell by the latest wave of fines being handed out over fairly innocent circumstances and comments.

So Jordan thinks Durant is a versatile player.

Tell us something we don’t already know.

So Ainge was seated next to Durant’s mother.

It was not as if Ainge was giving Durant’s mother a full-body massage with the game in progress.

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