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Winderman: The NBA is too nice. We need some real rivalries.

Sep 19, 2012, 10:33 AM EDT

Kevin Durant, LeBron James AP

Dwight Howard somehow now is friends with Stan Van Gundy and hopes to eventually be remembered fondly in Orlando.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland last season saying he would not rule out perhaps one day again playing for the Cavaliers.

Ray Allen took out a full-page ad in Boston to remind Celtics fans how much he cherishes their time together.

Grant Hill is back in Phoenix speaking fondly about his time with the Suns, even after moving to a division rival, with the Suns talking about Hill one day moving into their front office.

Know what the NBA needs just about now? Something along the lines of bounty-gate.

Because leagues are at their best when rivalries are pure, lines are drawn, when you’re either with us or against us.

Oh, there’s still some of that in today’s NBA, including the surliness of Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins toward anyone not in their team’s colors, and the one-upmanship between the front offices of the Nets and Knicks, but at a time when Kevin Durant is working out alongside LeBron, it does tend to take the edge of what the NBA once was, the pulsating chants of “Beat L.A.!” even when you weren’t actually playing L.A.

During a recent community even in Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers urged a singular approach for the coming season for his players: “I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”

Instead, we’re getting Hornets players working out alongside Spurs players in San Antonio, open gyms around the NBA featuring visits by opposing players, including one just the other day from Derek Fisher at the Lakers’ facility.

To a degree, this is a global community the NBA has forged, a shared bond of furthering the game, if not necessarily furthering rivalries.

It is why Mark Cuban remains somewhat refreshing with his Mavs-vs.-the-world approach, why we now, more than ever, can appreciate how Pat Riley had so fervently preached against fraternization.

The Heat were fun last season because they were compelling. They might have been more fun the season before, when they were loathed.

You may not condone what Greg Schiano pulled this week against the Giants, but he made it clear this was not about winning friends. It was about competition, a line that sometimes gets blurred in today’s NBA.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

  1. hwatt - Sep 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Well for Jordan’s 90s comeback he recruited superstars from around the league to work out with him. You can be the best of friends at a bar 1 minute and bitter enemies ready to show up the other guy the next minute on the court. Competitive people don’t have a problem with fraternization

    • michaeljordanseviltwin - Sep 19, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      Jordan had a serious problem with fraternization. He was so competitive that he destroyed his Bulls teammates in practice and slammed a clipboard out of Doug Collins’ hands when he drew up a play for somebody other than Jordan. Everybody feared him and pretended to like him. Check out The Jordan Rules to see what a pathological competitor he was.

      • hwatt - Sep 19, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        and in that same book you’ll remember he hung out w/plenty of friends on the team when he first came into the league, and was trying to get management to recruit all sorts of players he respected to play with him on the Bulls over the years.

  2. nghtrder169 - Sep 19, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Blame AAU basketball… Years ago all these players wouldn’t have really known each others names unless their High schools and later on their colleges played against each other. Now with AAU these guys not only know each other, they play on the same teams forming obvious friendships.

  3. scalfor3 - Sep 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    i think theres a degree of complacency in the nba because contracts are guaranteed. don’t get me wrong, guys want to win, but their job is far less at stake than NFL players. the result is too many corey maggettes and not enough KGs

    • tcclark - Sep 19, 2012 at 9:14 PM

      one of the best comments I’ve seen in a long time

  4. matt20hew - Sep 19, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Reblogged this on Today's News.

  5. davidly - Sep 19, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    What an unfunny joke. If one doesn’t know what’s wrong with this blog post, then one surely doesn’t know what’s wrong with the world.

  6. katra2logic - Sep 19, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Ira(tating) article… Look up the word ‘Sportsmanship’ Mr. Winderman.

    I find I am most competitive against my friends, probably the same goes for these guys…

    • drunkenjunk - Sep 19, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      you’re a pussy, get over yourself. Good article Ira, I agree with you. Rivalries make sports better.

  7. tcclark - Sep 19, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    There really aren’t enough rivalries in the NBA. A lot of that has to do with scheduling. Teams don’t play within the division enough. The Atlantic Division has a chance to really build on some rivalries this year – Sixer/Celtics Knicks/Nets etc. – but they don’t play each other enough to really build that.

    another big reason for this is because of the lack of parity in the NBA. In the NFL, any team can win on any given Sunday, same in the NHL which also has strong rivalries. That’s not the case in the NBA. A sixth seed isn’t going to go to the finals. The same teams win every year, so how can you build a strong rivalry? Heat/Celtics is developing, but I’m pretty sure the Celtics hate the Heat a lot more than the Heat hate the Celtics. Lakers/Clippers could be interesting, but they only play each other 4 times a year so they don’t really have a reason to hate each other.

    There are too many teams and they’re stuck in a system that doesn’t allow for teams to improve very much in a given year. Non-guaranteed contracts, hard salary caps, active free agency etc. these are things that allow for more parity and a stronger league

  8. tomtravis76 - Sep 20, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    You would think Ira would have half a brain, being a writer from South Florida. Sure, lets teach kids and fans to take the on court rivalries away from the court. Sure you dont remember kids getting killed for wearing the wrong colors. Fans attacking each other from rival teams, thats what makes going to a road NFL game miserable.

    The NBA is fun to watch again, there is so much talent, and these guys all want to win, and there is nothing wrong with players working together to improve their game.

  9. 24thesho - Sep 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    One minute They’re slamming Ron Artest for not being nice and and forever associate him with that infamous brawl in Indiana and the hit against Harding in the playoffs, or, for years get on Rasheed Wallace for being too intense but Kevin McHale’s clothesline foul on Kurt Rambis is okay and Bill Lambeer is fondly remembered as a tough, gritty playing Piston? Hmmm. I think some people just want to see these young black players (men) fight each other on national television so that they can complain about how volatile and immature young high paid NBA players are (who are mostly black) and how the league needs to “blah, blah, blah”…… and say, “See? You see how they are?” To perpetuate their preconceived images in their minds.

    Yo! You can’t have it both ways. You (by “you”, I mean the sports media) bitch about a player like DeMarcus Cousins being too angry, too intense but now you think the league is becoming too nice? I think Cousin’s presence in that Olympic
    game against Argentina would have come in handy. Again, you can’t have it both ways.

  10. Turrents - Sep 24, 2012 at 11:09 AM


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