Who is currently the NBA's No. 1 bad boy?
We ask our basketball experts from the Tribune Company empire to weigh in on subjects. Here's what a few had to say about those who use rough tactics during the course of an NBA game.
With today's rules against rolling your eyes at an opponent, enacted after Ron Artest went into the stands in Auburn Hills, there's no such thing as a Bad Boy as in the days when Detroit's Rick Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer tackled, low-bridged and/or throttled opponents at the hoop.
However, if you have to pick the modern player most likely to trigger an old-time fight, with apologies to Orlando's new scourge, at least on Twitter, Matt (Mad Man) Barnes, it's Artest.
Barnes is emotional and attitudinal but lives on this planet. Artest is still a barely contained force unto himself.
In last spring's series against the Lakers, he provoked a run-in with Kobe Bryant, got called for a foul, went to argue with the referee -- then suddenly turned and sprinted the length of the floor to jump into Bryant's face. Bryant, who's nothing if not cool (he didn't even blink when Barnes faked a pass into his face recently) didn't move a muscle or it would have been on for real. Artest got a T and mayhem was averted.
The next time, the opponent may move a muscle and it may be on for real.
Of course, now Ronnie's a Laker so it's their problem now.
-- Mark Heisler
David Stern would love the answer to this question: There is none.
For all the talk of an NBA image problem, it's a challenge to come up with anyone whose very presence in the league embarrasses it.
Sure, some players have shown poor Twitter judgment. And yes, Gilbert Arenas deserved punishment for his senseless, if not malicious, gun stunt. But the two primary participants in the Auburn Hills brawl, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson, have been model citizens on playoff teams -- Artest made news for revealing that he used to drink Hennessy at halftime. Allen Iverson has left the stage (again) as a sad figure, not a combative one. Rasheed Wallace leads the league in technical fouls, as usual. But second? That's Dwight Howard, who has a smile as broad as his shoulders. Makes you long for the bad old days, doesn't it?
-- Ethan Skolnick
Rules being what they now are and the retirements of Charles Oakley and Bill Laimbeer being official, there are no true Bad Boys anymore.
But even though Rasheed Wallace may lead the league in technical fouls, Matt Barnes may get the most bang for per-minutes buck and Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo continue to validate the Celtics’ dirty reputation, the only player who still consistently inspires opponents’ fear is Ron Artest. Heck, Artest is down to a mere six technicals with no flagrants or ejections in his quest for the ring.
But nobody locks down opponents as physically or as fearlessly as Artest. And, you know, he still has that switch that could be flipped -- even if it hasn’t this season.
Photo: Spurs forward Matt Bonner and guard Manu Ginobili pay extra attention to Lakers forward Ron Artest as they fight for rebounding position Sunday. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas / US Presswire