On toughness in basketball

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 7, 2009 at 2:52 PM

Shane Battier gets it: "They're getting hammered by their media for not being tough enough. I guess they wanted to come out and show they're tough guys, making some plays like that. That's their mind frame."

The Lakers have to be mature enough to not get into this mess, though. Toughness isn't about talking trash and throwing people on the ground. Toughness is about what Pau Gasol did last night: working hard inside, taking the ball to the hole, scrapping for rebounds, blocking shots. Toughness is, in fact, the opposite of what the Lakers did last night, because toughness is about the mental attitude that you're going to withstand whatever gets thrown at you, that you're going to keep your head and play your game. Kobe Bryant did not exhibit toughness with an elbow to Artest's throat (which I predict he will not be suspended for), he exhibited toughness by simply walking away when Artest came over to him and got in his grille.

Derek Fisher is usually the toughest guy on the team. When he takes hits, when his teammates take shots, when the road crowd is out of its mind, when the other team is on a run, when he gets a little foul trouble, when he misses shots -- none of it matters. He plays his game. Last night was the exception, not the proof, which is why I was so disheartened to hear Doug Collins talk about Fisher's toughness only after he leveled Scola. (Which, by the way, I predict he will also not be suspended for. In fact, I think the call will be dialed back to a flagrant one. Of course, the league won't issue any apologies to the team or the fans for their officials throwing a guy out of the game undeservedly, but that's the NBA. It's positively Bushian.)

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