By Ben Golliver
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is looking to the league office for a little help when it comes to keeping his guys out of harm's way on the sidelines.
During the first quarter of a Thursday game against the Knicks, Spurs forward Stephen Jackson suffered a sprained right ankle when he backpedaled after shooting a jump shot onto a waitress who was kneeling while serving New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who was seated courtside at Madison Square Garden. The injury immediately forced Jackson from action and he did not return. He also did not play against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
The San Antonio Express-News reports that Popovich referred to the incident as a "Mayoral mishap", calling it "maddening" while making it clear a player should never find himself injured in such circumstances.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Popovich expressed confidence the incident would spur the league to better control the sidelines during games.
“After what happened, I have no doubt the league has contacted teams to make sure everybody shores up their discipline in that area,” he said. “It’s obvious people shouldn’t be ordering beers or Cokes or hot dogs when the game is going on.”
As noted here at The Point Forward on Thursday, there's just no excuse for this. Hopefully Popovich is correct and the league office has indeed taken steps to explain the appropriate protocol for courtside serving.
Adhering to a "no serving during live action" rule shouldn't be that difficult to stick by, given how much non-live time is built into an NBA game by way of timeouts, television timeouts, quarter breaks, halftime and all the other possible stoppages in play (video reviews, etc.). In bigger markets, the number of celebrities and their demands surely increase. So do the prices, though, which should be sufficient to maintain an appropriate waiter-to-customer ratio that doesn't require cutting corners or taking unnecessary risks.
Given the stakes, it's reasonable to suggest that home teams should be subject to fines if their employees influence live action in this manner, regardless of whether the players impacted are their own players or the opposition. This situation isn't any less serious if it's J.R. Smith being carted off with an ankle injury rather than Jackson. The issue here is player safety and not competitive advantage. Not to mention, this is just bad business. The Spurs are paying Jackson $10.1 million this season, which equates to roughly $122,000 per game. In other words, the Spurs are on the hook for roughly $214,000 to Jackson for the time (seven-plus quarters) that he wasn't able to play during the Knicks and 76ers games. That's no laughing matter, even if the original incident was ripped from the pages of a television sit com. The NBA can and must do better.